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July 12, 2008

Post Industry?

Let me take a minute to deconstruct deconstruction. I've heard the term post-industrial thrown around. This is where our problem lies in our postmodern society. There is no such thing as post industry because to say a society is "postindustrial" is to say that a society no longer relies on manufacturing, building, and other industrial pursuits. Engineers are still among the most employable and stable occupations. Public sector industrial work never goes out of style (particularly in PA with the way the weather works the infrastructure. Service industry requires a stable base of industrial development. If I want to open a restaurant, I have to have people come and build a place to host it. Then I need tables, chairs, ovens, kitchen tools, and of course, uniforms, tableware. And after that is done, I will need food products, wines, coffees, etc. Service directly depends on industry. It's just like the transition from agrarian life to mass industry. Believe it or not, there are still farmers in this world. Trees, plants and animals that aren't cats, dogs or ferrets exist. In order to make those crystal glasses, you need a carbon source. Raw materials are still being harvested. What is oil? Post industrial would suggest that we no longer rely on raw materials which would be a complete lie being as our recycling system is, I would argue, inadequate.

What marks the post-industrial age is not the reality, but the focus of society's gaze on reality. Cyber studies, media studies, media ecology, sensation and perception being psychology's next fad. We've merely directed the attention of the culture at large to a growing facet of our society. Industry has not shrunken, but with global capital is indeed, growing. So what seems like a diminishing demand of manufacturing jobs in America is actually a shift in the sectors where the jobs are placed (the outsourcing crisis ring a bell?). So, we should make clear that service depends on industry (every industry needs tools), that demand for industrial jobs has not diminished and that economic growth really does start with industry. What happens is a series of shifts in demand. Specialists are always hired because of the principles of competition that capitalism employs. We want the best candlestick maker, right? But let's say next year, there is an incident with fire that makes buying candles unfavorable and people see a new electric candle that the competitor is selling. Candlestick makers are now out of business and all the time invested in perfecting that trade is thrown out. What if a blight hits the beehives in that area and wax can no longer be collected for that plant? Those are all factors that affect people employed at that plant. Deregulation cannot address those crises and in fact, makes it easier for companies to shift around. The argument that taxes has so much to do with the state of the economy is such a fallacious argument. Yet many people buy this notion and I nearly vomit when I see how many NeoReaganists are out there. The economy is not driven by profits. It is driven by labor, and in particular, industrial labor. The goal of the economy is profit, but profit cannot be achieved without something to generate it.

So take the whole "greed is good" idea for example and let's be completely agnostic to moral, political, and philosophical convictions and ideology. If we loosen the grip on the stock market, banks, and corporate organizations, this creates a surge of money in the upper sectors of money holders and allows for these groups to invest in industry in order to generate more wealth for themselves. The trickle-down effect would be the kind and benevolent rich people bending down to the working class Americans and handing... or more accurately, that letting powerful capitalists off the leash for a while would resurrect industry and open a mass industrial job market to generate more wealth for the rich and rekindle the vague promise of the "American dream." It, even in my very cynical interpretation, sounds very glittering. Here's the catch: you only get half of the story: the macroeconomic perspective. What you get is glittering generalizations to which our culture has, in recent history, been built on. It sounds good. But more jobs does not mean better situation for working class families, does not mean more wealth for the ambiguous benefits of economic growth across the board.

This relies on the assumption that capital drives economic improvement. But, as any economist would know, bigger is not necessarily better. May we say "broken window fallacy?" The problem with these thoughts are they don't change anything really. Raising the standard of living across the board does not eliminate poverty. Poverty is a social condition marked by a disparity between one class of people and another. Being poor is not lacking the things necessary to live, but being of a social status so low one could not be lower. The trouble is the poverty line is very ambiguous and extremely subjective. Where do you draw the line of poverty? People were sent to labor camps in 18th century Europe for stealing food and stealing is socializing in the base classes. What stopped the people in the 18th century from going into the woods and killing animals with their bare hands and eating them? It was more possible then than now. Humans are social creatures and the presence of people is enough to keep people in a unfair situation. So food was not a need, but a desire in 18th century Europe. And a loaf of bread is no different than stealing a television set. Where did this come from? Greed. And from the lower classes to the upper, we are socialized to believe this wad of horse shit. And the greed trickles down. Poverty is the social frustration of desire. Poor people want to be able to have access to the things of rich people because the rich have it easy. And being part of society and all it's assumptions of wants and needs runs deep into the soul of every human being. We want to flaunt our talents and uniqueness and we want to feel special. Willy Loman was certainly special once. But when folks came back from the war and the GI bill put more college grads out there, a salesman became just a salesman. Bernards started replacing Willies and by Christ, look at what something as simple as an image does. Post industry is what happened to Willy Loman. How often do you see a show like Rosanne on TV? Working class people have been eliminated from our social awareness. They exist. It's funny how media, pop culture hype and marketing all play a role in shifting what we believe is reality. Postindustry, cyberculture, social networking are all glittery terms like greed is good, that call us to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. It's sad. And we all want to be the man, too. Which is more sad.

I have to repeat the words of my Mexican buddy who comes to America and is taken aback by how little we really stop and look at classism. "How much is enough? Is there ever a time when these people [wealthy Americans] say 'I'm satisfied'?" Luxury is disappointing. Just ask kids in the 1950s. Home life may be more tranquil in the suburbs, but building so-called solutions doesn't really solve the fundamental problem that has driven contemporary culture: the problem of society. We should learn from our Latino and Native brothers: how we mingle with others is a part of achieving happiness. And as business continues to grow and deregulation allows business to shift work around to suit the creation of profit and people are constantly competing and searching aimlessly for that "American Dream," we will still feel anxiety and unfulfillment. Free markets can't bring that fulfillment. We learned that in the 1950s as Jack Kerouac watched people wander around at night in their cars. Until we can start building small, stable, localized economies that only function to fill needs and not create them, until we can build actual communities where people help each other through real problems that are now reserved for disinterested professionals, until we can all view each other as a friend, we will all be lost travelers on these long and winding roads, whether in a car or on the roadside hitching for a ride. Please buy local produce, chat a while with people in your neighborhood deli, volunteer at a community arts festival or nursing home, take a look at all the hidden gems your community has to offer. You cannot change the world, or stop large corporations, or completely restructure the economy. But with 4 dollar gas, it might be wise to start the movement. Think locally, act locally. You might be surprised at just how many of the answers are hiding under your nose.

Posted by EvanReynolds at 11:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 28, 2008


I don't care who you vote for, go out and register. I don't care what you think about voting... VOTE.

To make it easy, I will give some resources:

Voting records (by party)


John McCain


Hillary Clinton

Barack Obama

Campaign Platform

Hillary Clinton

John McCain (directly from official campaign site)

Barack Obama

Ralph Nader

Voter registration in PA:

Absentee ballots:

Go to the United States' state government page, go to the state in which you are registered to vote, click on state government and then voting. Here, there should be a link about absentee ballots. Go there and follow your states instructions for acquiring one.

Posted by EvanReynolds at 7:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

October 1, 2007

New Horizons

Okay, so American society is mangled. That is an obvious thing. But I think I've found a yearning in everyone for the same thing people in America have been yearning for since Independence: identity. No one ever says "I am an American." Are we proud of our rich history? Our bright and vibrant cultures? Our helpful people who don't want to be better, have more, or oppress others, but just want to get by and hopefully be part of something? We've allowed these alien ideas of "spreading democracy," "free markets," and enterprise to taint our landscape to the point where America is all image and no feeling.

I am here to say America is a feeling. America is where every man and woman is free, well-fed, and belongs. We've allowed politicians and capitalists to tell us who we are. I say we should tell them who we are. Being black is not being absorbed in basketball, rap, bling. Being woman is not being a determined autonomous feminist. Being Native is not being a spiritual, complacent primitivist. Being an immigrant is not being weird or trendy. Being an Italian American is not being a mobster or Sinatra in "Little Italy." Being gay is not being out and proud, socialite, flaky, trendy, or fashionable. Being male is not being a rough, muscular, lady-pleaser, unemotional, pissed-off, competetive meathead. Being American is not waving a Goddamned flag over everything you own.

Being American means hating fascism of any form and being willing to stand up and fight it, whether with words, with guns, or with ideas.

What does it mean to be an American?

It means you don't have the right to tell us what is American. We are American. If you breath the air above this land, you are American and no one has the right to block you out or smuggle you in. We are not your cheap, crafty, innovative workforce. We are not your marketing demographic. We are no longer fooled by these "images of America" and now we are starting to get pissed. You don't want to piss with America.

Posted by EvanReynolds at 10:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 28, 2007

Ann Coulter... Need I say more?

God, it's great to be back. So, after careful deliberation about the anti-intellectual, anti-liberal showboating that often occurs in numerous locations (aw, Hell add this one too.), I have come to the conclusion that I must give a little advice to our dear conservative propagandists marketers. Perhaps the American public is not as dumb as you believe (assuming that the opinion pieces that contradict themselves in each successive paragraph and the news stories that somehow manage to make the "liberals" seem like lecherous, hedonistic, ego-trippers are some well-designed caniving form of propaganda) and you may want to look for better methods. Con us once and damn on you, con us twice and damn on us...

As a radical (that is, one who has left the miniscule playing field of American politics to run with the big dogs), I get a real good laugh at these attempts to glaze over the real issues. Even Iraq is a small concern compared to Global American Imperialism ® commonly shortened to Globalization. (I am more anti-gai than our dear ol' Annie, by the way.) All the contras that took place in South America far exceed anything attempted overseas. Whether stifling coups in Nicaragua, putting friendly surprise developments in Panama, telling Hugo Chavez that feeding poor Latinos in Venezuela is a crime against democracy (I guess people need an incentive to make life better for themselves, too?), or moving farm jobs from Mexico to this side of the Rio Grande.

Just to set the record straight, Mexicans aren't stealing our jobs... They are just in the process of having their jobs relocated. It's like a Nazi death camp... just without the messy ovens. I get sick of hearing the blatantly racist jokes, the hate, the bigotry. I don't hate Mexicans. I don't hate any immigrant. By Christ, come in! Join the madhouse! What I do hate, however, are the sick, twisted, perverse and non-sequitur ideologies such as Reganomics. It makes the Stepford Wives look like a Kropotkin colony.

Greed is good? I'll just remember that after the Red Revolution when you rich bastards are starving on the streets of socialism.

"Hey! Aren't you the one that said rational self-interest benefits everyone? What's that? Hungry? Here, have an ultra-processed can of (Jesus, I don't know what). It ain't caviar, but it may have meat in it... somewhere. Just push the organs aside. Ah, the bliss of trickle-down benefits courtesy of the dictatorship of the proletariat."

This has been a message from CLR, reminding you that true democracy can only start in the absence of a middle man. Lets give 'em a real reason to wiretap the phones! And remember... Corporate media is to news as distillation is to water.

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June 8, 2007

Another memorable Margaret Cho moment

Margaret Cho speaks the (unrestrained) truth yet again.

Posted by EvanReynolds at 8:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 27, 2007

Hallelujah! That's a bloody good piece of work!

Here is a surprisingly good video that was produced by someone on Youtube:

Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious

Just a word of caution: the video on the other side of this link can be interpreted as slash (background music is Rufus Wainwright, enough said). If you don't know what slash is, you probably will, like me, find it insanely hilarious. If you do know what slash is, keep dreaming...

Genius push of absurdity on a nihilistic group of musicians.

No wonder Johnny broke down and cried so much when Sid died.

Ridiculously funny load of bollocks, mate! ;)

Posted by EvanReynolds at 1:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 25, 2007

God Bless Reeves Library

For as much criticism as I give to our university's highly limited library, I am now very excited at the new crop of books to enter the collection. Among these, is one of the latest works of my favorite scholarly authors, Fredric Jameson. I am biased, but I believe absolutely no collection in this current academic climate is complete without at least one publication of Fredric Jameson. While the academic culture war is continuing to polarize thought (postmodern vs. modern), Jameson addresses the paradoxes (and sometimes, contradictions) that are driving this current movement. While staying true to his school of thought, Marxism (particularly the Frankfort School), Jameson does thoughtful Marxist critiques of the rise of Postmodernism.

I absolutely devoured the last book of his I read, Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. I am so excited that I don't have to make a trip to Barnes and Noble or to log on to to give this one a read. Thank you, Reeves Library and Humanities Division! The new crop of books are great...

Posted by EvanReynolds at 1:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 24, 2007

I'm Still Alive!!!

I have neglected my poor blog, so... I will take the 5 minutes I have left to post a link to the official site of a really great band, where you can download full-length audio files of select tunes they decided to freely distribute.

Pansy Division

***Disclaimer: if you are not comfortable with or certain about your sexual orientation, whether it be gay or straight or all of the above, you probably don't want to visit the above site. Pansy Division is a queercore/homopunk rock band that started in the early '90s and is still active. Many of the songs they produce are intentionally abrasive and often include references about gay sex, gay innuendo, jokes about straight people (if they even exist), and very strong and often vulgar language. And if you are expecting there to be house music, you will be gravely disappointed...***

Posted by EvanReynolds at 11:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 8, 2006

New Media Projects and dreams (oh, wait... hallucinations)

It's 4:00am. I want some sleep. I think I am seeing Dr. Jerz in a dream right now... oh, wait. I must be hallucinating. I have yet to finish my independent study work (at least to the degree that I want it). I thought I would share this psychological insight: biting more than your mouth can hold leads to choking. And yes, if you were wondering, Dr. Jerz is whispering this in my ear right now :)

Okay, back to the grindstone, but here is the url for my NMP project 2:

Update: Used wrong url for link. Project is located here:

Posted by EvanReynolds at 4:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

October 19, 2006

NMP Blogging Portfolio 1

What is New Media Projects (NMP)?

First on the menu...

Punk Points: an entry about what I wanted to do for the first project. (Most of the interaction happened outside of the blogosphere).


IF Updates: an entry updating my progress on the first project. (Most of the other projects I... well, let's not go there, 'kay?)

And finally...

Linux Flash Fiasco: Expresses many new media issues in interoperability. (Especially with iPods running rampant in the streets).


Aesthetic Anarchy: Looks at the myth that new media must change our entire philosophical tradition. (In other words, we don't need postmodern philosophy just because our media go through many drastic changes).

Posted by EvanReynolds at 6:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 9, 2006

CBC, a Linux Flash Fiasco

So a guy surfs the web, eh...

It seems that I have been getting rather peeved with Adobe as of late. They promised a Flash Player 9 for Linux, but waited to release a flash player 10, due... oh, I don't know... soon? So, most of the non-taken case studies now require Flash 8 or better and I'm not going back to the freakin' computer lab!!!

Let me comment on the methodologies of the CBC's flash web design. First up, please allow for a Flash 7 version! Second, Holy Schmoley! the page only caches in around 8K! (oh, forgot... non flash version). I noticed then that if you don't have the latest flash player, all is not lost you can still view the content which is powered by ColdFusion (Seton Hill also uses Cold Fusion for web development). The idea of integrating JavaScript to render the layout of the flash page is great. Many people argue that not every browser supports JavaScript (which is a blatant lie) or that JavaScript has some security issues (well, okay, but still, you should browse smart...). Many of the examples in the book look really good. They are nouveau and mod and that's the problem. The designer made the pages have no consistent layout and pretty much every page is pell-mell and there is no sense to it.

For anyone who browses a website, what if google made every page look strikingly different? Some would have content on the left, some it would be on the right, and even some may have the header and search form on the bottom. Would that work? No. Google would lose an audience. In web design you must implement at most, three standard templates all with similar layout and navigational rules. That is, links must appear in similar colors, if the sidebar is on the right, it should stay on the right, etc. The same thing applies to pages with flash.

Posted by EvanReynolds at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 15, 2006

IF Updates

What can I say? Inform 7 is the weirdest type of code there is. I wouldn't even call it "code." Perhaps a markup language? Anyway, I am starting to see how useful of a [insert whatever Inform 7 is] it is. The purpose behind it is simple: introduce a markup that will flow with your narrative (kinda like poetry) and add some sugar and spice and whatever else compose or comprise your IF piece and BAM! You have the ability to seemlessly create a work of IF. Inform 7 is a huge compromise. It lightens the load of code so that you don't have to switch gears every time you create a game. It allows you to code as you write the story.

I am glad I discovered this, because now I can take the game in any direction I want... At Whim! But my story is far from whimsical. One thing that I found about my story as peers tested it is that I have made a ridiulously simple game ridiculously complex. It's complex because it's simple. This paradox is what drives the game. It resembles the game Galatea in that the game has very limited objects to interact with, but the interactions go deep... and shallow.

One problem that I frequently run into is the naming convention of Inform 7. For example, attack equals kill in the eyes of the program. Logically, this is a bit of a trick because attack does not necessarily equal kill in everyday language. (Of course, philosophical logic does not equal mathematical logic). Another problem is that the parser does not understand prepositions. It often lumps prepositions with verbs. (ex: After *talking with Grandma about morals*, now the player steals cookies.) The parser has tripped up on me in syntax similar to the syntax between the stars. Some words just don't do anything useful but give errors summarizing their uselessness (invisible, for example).

Help systems are helpful. While they are somewhat time-consuming to make (you need a table for the help topics), they are ridiculously easy to implement. If anyone wants a help system, I can put together a quick tutorial on making one. (There is also a tutorial burried in the documentation).

Has anyone figured out how to make conversation work between the player and NPC's?

Posted by EvanReynolds at 10:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

September 11, 2006

Punk Points

I've finally found a game that somewhat reflects what I want to do with the IF project 1. It's called "Punk Points."

Posted by EvanReynolds at 10:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

September 6, 2006

Aesthetic Anarchy

I have a great idea. Since I am under the impression that we should accept the inevitable relativistic "dethronement" of all authority, why don't we tell our miserable leader that he has no authority! Let's tell all these CEOs and CTOs of corporations that they mean nothing and the economy is just a social construction! Let's tell God that, well sorry to say, but Nietzsche was right, you don't exist, never have and are only an excuse for not living our life to the fullest hedonistic ego-trip possible!

Perhaps we can do this while people starve in the streets, while politicians bastardize our already dastard democracy, while corporations monopolize an already corrupt classist system. Perhaps it's best to debate how to make an egocentrical medium more beautiful rather than more collaborative, just, ethical (??? pick one).

Authority is always bad and people not only have the God-given right to freely exploit knowledge, but also each other. Yes. The future is inevitable. We probably don't even have free will, after all, free will disintegrated when Lyotard, Derrida, and Fouccalt opened their mouths and barked. They aren't any kind of authority, but that's irrelevant because authority doesn't matter anyway. Woof. Woof. Bark.

PS: If you didn't understand any of that, suffice to say Postmodernism is not progression, it's pure destruction. It won't liberate anything. It can't. It doesn't go anywhere. It would be much more productive to bark than to propose any such rubbish.

Posted by EvanReynolds at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 30, 2006

Initial Problems with EL405

Well, I am going to be completely honest with everyone. EL405 might as well be called "Video Game Design 405." About 4 of the 5 development packages are in some way related to video games. Somehow, I feel cheated. Especially having to post about a book that I have already read and was only mildly engaged by. I don't like to complain, but I think this phenomenon raises some really interesting issues in contemporary media studies, so it is absolutely pertinent.

First of all, the fundamental assumption is that video games are the next big thing. (Film, by the way, still dwarfs video games at length). Sure, video games have much to tell us about psychological phenomenon such as cognition, attention, etc. But, think of all the philosophical issues as well. Games may challenge, but often not in a life-changing way. If you can choose where the narrative goes, the narrative is no more than a relativistic postmodern collation of words that mean nothing in the end. If you can change the environment, you are not being affected by the environment intellectually. The environment is not rubbing you in a new direction, you are rubbing it in a new direction. The most intellectual engagement to get out of a game is when the game is over!

The second assumption is that interactive simulation is more important than presentation. While it could be argued that adding interactive simulation allows for people to explore depth, I am not denying that it is important. What annoys me is that presentation is being devaluated. This is a quasi-progressive paradigm. If someone can answer their own questions through interaction with a medium, there is little room for personal speculation. As you read this text, not all the dimensions can be represented. But I am presenting my views as I see them. As you read this medium, with different limitations, you can't ask it questions. You can't explore all the dimensions of my views. You construct an image of my views with the 2-D information I give you. If I were to construct that image of my views for you in a simulation, you wouldn't have to construct (in other words, the medium does most of the intellectual work for you and personal dialogue becomes unnecessary).

Weblogs are one example of interaction with limited mediation. You are sending information through a medium, but so am I. So, we are at least personally communicating on some level. If this website were a huge simulation, I would have already put everything I wanted to communicate in the simulation and, while I could expand upon it, the communication is limited (limited to what I put in the simulation). So, when you communicate to this simulation, you are not communicating to me, but to a medium in which I placed everything I wanted you to discover. Hardly an engaging conversation, in my opinion.

I do agree that interactive simulation is good for what it does. That's it. It's not going to replace the methods of communication that have long outlived all other media (such as talking!).

The final assumption is in defining "new media." Does new media mean the next big thing? Or is it a way of saying current, but dominating media? The vagueness of the term makes it able to be bent in either direction to forward any agenda.

And finally, to Koster. Oh God. Do I really have to design a game? One issue I would like to raise is one of competition and status. Games are conducive to both. I would like to develop a less egocentrical type of game. Not sure how theoretically applicable this is, but I want to find a way to make a formal rule-based system to bend into the domain of collaboration rather than competition. As much as I would like to perpetuate the ideology of competition and exploitation of others (such as the "oh, you didn't make it to that level?!" or "I beat you!" mentality).

Posted by EvanReynolds at 11:53 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

August 27, 2006

Is This Some Kind of Joke?

I've been through some really weird experiences, but this one certainly takes the cake. It's like that didn't-quite-make-it Hollywood movie: I Know What You Did Last J-Term.

But, really, I don't see this as a Scarlet badge... I think it's more of a "bleu, blanc, et rouge" badge. For as much as I joke with my friends about moving to France, I could not leave America. Even if I think it's being run by a bunch of fascists, I would sooner go to jail for my radical ideologies than flee like a coward from the land I love. If it's radical to want all people to be equally valued and compensated for their positive contributions to society and to work for peace and abandon greed, then radical is the most moral thing one can do.

In the words of Langston Hughes:

"I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek —
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak."
-Let America Be America Again

Posted by EvanReynolds at 4:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Avez-vous Une Cigarette?

Quel ironie! Si vous connaissez les Francais, la cigarette c'est la drogue la plus repandue en France. C'est dommage pour les fumeurs, mais je n'aime pas le tabagisme passif. Apres j'ai lu l'article, j'ai pense : qu'est-ce que c'est d'importance? La sante des salaries ou le plaisir des clients? (Pour moi, je pense que la sante c'est plus importante que le plaisir.)

Je suis sur la probleme c'est plus complique, mais je suis sur, aussi, que cet interdiction va etre difficile pour les touristes.

Posted by EvanReynolds at 1:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 26, 2006

Conservatism = Counterproductivity

Thank you, Uncle Sam for wanting to stifle the free press of America in the name of security. So, are we to be ill-informed of what our government is doing? We should just give up our freedoms that countless patriots died for? This language is so anti-democratic it sickens me. Let's forget the liberal ideals our country was founded upon. Because, obviously the enlightenment produced some fine conservative thinkers, 2+2=5, and war is peace, ignorance is strength and freedom is slavery. "Treasonous?" Try "Patriotic." If conservatism is based on "the sanctity of my home" and private property, then conservatism is no more than a deceptive sack of contradictions and lies, just like every other dominant American political ideology: Democrat, Republican or Independant. Security? Who was it that said "He who would give up liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security"? I forget...

Posted by EvanReynolds at 12:40 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

May 11, 2006

A Critical Reading of "The Line Between Fact and Fiction"

Roy Peter Clark wrote a fantastic essay on the epistemology and ontology of journalism. But he missed a huge chunk of the iceberg, in my opinion...

"The post-modernist might think this all irrelevant, arguing that there are no facts, only points of view, only "takes" on reality, influenced by our personal histories, our cultures, our race and gender, our social class. The best journalists can do in such a world is to offer multiple frames through which events and issues can be seen. Report the truth, they ask. Whose truth?"
-Roy Clark, "The Line Between Fact and Fiction"

I am in no way a postmodernist. There is one reality. There is one truth. I'll even toss in that there is one universal virtue. But, the question remains, what is it? Humans are mediated entities. We can see only what's in front of us. No one individual can possess the truth. (YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!) Why? Because of the limitations of our mediated selves. I would argue that it is not that there is no universals, but that everything we see is subjective, so we will never attain full knowledge of the truth. It's not that it doesn't exist, it's just that it cannot be quantified within one single frame of reference.

Imagine there are three blind men on differing sides of an elephant. One can only touch the tail, but when he does, he instantly recognizes it as an elephant. Another can only touch the trunk, but when he does, he instantly recognizes it as an elephant. Yet another can only touch the ear, but when he does, he instantly recognizes it as an elephant. Which one is correct? You see, truth is multi-faceted, like the elephant. There are many dimensions to truth. Because we carry a lens with a certain set of restrictions, we only see certain facets of the truth.

We are, as I said before, egocentric beings. We only see our side of the story. For example, is the person who treats you like total shit a bad person? If you say yes, I guarantee that you don't treat everyone so mighty fine yourself! Thus, if that statement is true, then we are all bad people. If it were only Adam and Eve and Eve bitchslaps Adam for leaving the toilet seat up, then, yes, maybe Eve was a bad person. We are nice to whom we delight in being nice to and we love to loathe our enemies (even though Jesus told us not to, damn hippie!).

Perhaps if we focused more on the ontology and epistemology of media studies and journalism the world would get closer to the truth. Instead, we focus on the unchallenged classical assumptions of journalistic values. I commend Roy Clark for writing such a thought-provoking piece. He raised some issues in my mind that have been silenced to acceptance by people who study the media. To answer the call that journalists should report the truth, YES! But the question still remains, "where do we begin?"

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The Id, the Ego and the Photo

Journalism is egocentric. Hell, I'd be willing to bet that all of life is egocentric. We only see what we choose to see. What makes journalists so different? Are they any less human than other workers? No. If you want someone who is not very human, talk to a lawyer. All jokes aside, anything mediated has certain sets of limitations. These limitations, therefore, create a frame of reference. I like to call this frame of reference its ego, simply because I am also a psychology major... You can call it something else if you like. Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum lies the id. The id is the reader, the viewer. He or she is embedded with unconscious desires and biases -- perhaps more so than the reader cares to admit. The problem is the id and the ego don't get along. At all. Their quarrels of ideologies and agendas create a certain amount of alienation. The id and the ego of media are the macrocosm of what goes on inside each and everyone's brain daily. And that is a blatant oversimplification...

To avoid a strict dichotomy, Freud observed that there was a third construct of the brain called the superego. Just like Freud's construct, the superego mediates the desires and biases of the id (reader) with the agendas and biases of the ego (reporter). The superego is my personal hero. What is the superego in terms of media studies? Simple: a critical reading of the news.

Let's take the example of a photograph. Simple, right? How can a photo be biased? Well, remember from earlier, the medium is the message! The limitations of the photo allow the reporter to only take one static image. This limitation may seem irrelevant, but think about it... How can you capture every side or faction of a story with one photograph? You'd have to make a collage of images to capture every side.

Take a look at this simple search for news photos on the immigration issue (via yahoo, what is the immigration issue?). Okay, now you may think this a stretch, but I don't. What is wrong with the results?

Of all the photos of the first five tiers of results, how many Americans do you see advocating immigrant rights? How many Mexican officials to you see protesting the emmigrations from Mexico? You either see poor Mexican workers advocating their rights or a group of blue-collar Americans holding up American flags in protest. Is that unbiased? Is that fair? Is that proportional? Probably proportional, but as you see, the proportionality is lost in the masses upon masses of blatantly dichotomized images. Who looks at every article and every image just to find all the sides and perspectives involved? As the news agencies see it, the fairness is in the fact that they try to portray two sides of an issue in their most positive light. I guess adding complexity and ambiguity would turn off viewers to the news.

You see, from my frame of reference, the news is not about truth. It never was. It's usually about persuasion and money. We are, as said by Susan Sontag, still in Plato's Cave. Capital is America's frame of reference. Because money talks, right? Obviously, the medium is the massage. People don't need to be challenged; they just need to consume the facts and everything will fall into place, right?

News is very egocentric. In this Western world, we live in a bubble. News is never fair, never proportional, never objective. Why? Because of the sole fact that we view everything from a Eurocentric, capitalistic ideological lens. Does this mean I want to go into total anarchy? Perhaps. But, I feel the most quintessential element in journalism is transperancy. We cannot use words such as fair, proportional, objective, and balanced (yes, that goes for Fox news, too!).

How do we remedy this issue? Simple. Transperancy: we must admit the pervasive biases of the media. This doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for a fair, accurate, proportional, objective and yes, balanced news media, but we should be careful to place these labels on any reporting when they are not completely true. Critical reading: perhaps the most important element in this issue, a critical reading is how we process the biases of both the news reports and ourselves. We must strive to know the reporter's frame of reference, but also strive to know our's. Socrates posed the challenge to "know thyself." Within that short sentence, lies far-reaching implications for media studies. The more we know about our own frame of reference, and the more we know about where others are coming from, the closer we are to the truth.

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November 20, 2005

A Merry Un-Birthday to Journalists

Which source would you trust for coverage of the Iraqi reaction to the military operations in Iraq: an American journalist or an Iraqi blogger.

Before you answer, let me remind you that this is about Iraqi reactions.

If you would trust an American journalist for this one, all I can say is: "you're as mad as a hatter!" Some coverage of journalism is subjective and calls for people who understand the context of the situation. An American wouldn't know the cultural contexts necessary for giving an accurate interpretation of another culture's response.

This can be seen in Zeyad's Healing Iraq, to which Zeyad said in We the Media: "...coming from an Iraqi, they [the readers] give it more credence than if it were coming from Western journalists."

Like the Mad Hatter declared a "merry un-birthday" in Alice in Wonderland, ordinary people with extraordinary knowledge of important events of our time are becoming journalists. And electronic media again are causing us again to redefine everything, including journalism.

I have alluded to postmodern theory regarding digital media before. This is yet another example of the decentralization of episteme (Greek: Knowledge): with the diversity of individual expertise, instead of people turning to one comprehensive source of knowledge, we can turn to compartmentalized sources of knowledge.

This is the core feature of the internet. Because it is so easy to publish, we get not just a range of trustworthy and untrustworthy sources--that is too simplistic and dualistic--but also a wide range of specializations by people who are passionate about their specialty. Thus, we can't know everything, but we can all know something.

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November 11, 2005

Blogging Portfolio

Coverage-I explored the clash of conventions between journalism and science in: The Journalism of Science and in Failure to Diversify the Stats, I expounded upon the issue of diversity in statistics as mentioned in It Ain't Necessarily So.

Timeliness-Entries such as Crime and Punishment, Avoiding Libel, and Reporting Madness were first on the scene.

Interaction and Discussion-Risky Reporting sparked a discussion with journalism major Amanda Cochran.

Depth-In The Process Makes the Content, I examined the idea of bias affecting research and argued that the methods are what determine the bias. In A Postmodern Understanding of the Glass, I applied postmodern theory to the reading of It Ain't Necessarily So, arguing that two opposing statements can be valid, but how will we know which one is true?

XenoBlogging-On Johanna's blog and Lorin's blog, I offered my interpretations of the final few chapters of It Ain't Necessarily So.

Wildcard-Click to be surprised!

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October 28, 2005

A Postmodern Understanding of the Glass

Is the glass half empty or full?

Statistics often lend themselves to being interpreted in many different ways. People can form opposing arguments based on the same statistic. This seems confusing in a dualistic-minded society. The fact of the matter is, things can be in opposition to each other without being polar opposites. Donnie Darko made this point painfully clear to his health teacher.

For example, I can say that racism is a problem caused by a particular culture's misconceptions of another race...


I can also say that it is a problem caused by a lack of positive cross-racial experience resulting in a negative evaluation of another race...

Both claims made consider racism a problem; so, they are not contradictory. But, they do oppose each other, just not directly. These are contrary statements. This gives us a sense of a multi-dimensional understanding of truth. Truth is not either this thing or that. Truth is a dynamic which can be interpreted depending on context. Maybe these two statements are both right. Hmmmmm... If they both are valid and accurate, why not?

Proportion and scale play into this understanding. These are two distinct ways of looking at facts. Proportion is the contextual side of fact. It's like a pie chart; it compares the part to the whole. Scale is the more linear understanding of fact; it evaluates the part individually. Both are very accurate and truthful ways of looking at something. However, neither one is the be-all-end-all for measuring fact. Both are equally good ways of measuring fact, but their strengths and weaknesses are different.

Let's say we wanted to measure--as in the book It Ain't Necessarily So--whether or not the state of traditional (nuclear) families is declining. Which method would be the most adventageous to use?

Since there is also the factor of population that can rise or fall, thus affecting the number of families, we should take the number of nuclear families in proportion to the whole and compare the data to the proportion of non-traditional families.

If we wanted to see whether or not AIDS has increased greater in men than women--also in the book--we would use scale. Why? Because AIDS declines year-by-year, proportions of cases would not have the same common denominator. In other words, the raw number of cases in women may have decreased more in number than men, but risen in proportion exceding the male proportion.

Is the glass half empty or full? It all depends on context.

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October 27, 2005

The Journalism of Science

It Ain't Necessarily So made a case for the uncanny ability of Journalists to be absolutists. That's fine, but when reporters try to report on scientific statistic--which is by no means absolute--they run into a problem: the facts become misleading. The irony of this situation is: the objectiveness of the news becomes compromised by being objective.

The conventions of research lend themselves to being convoluted and based tremendously in context. For example, if you've browsed journal databases, you may find the abstracts that come up read something like, "study on the effects of aspirin on pregnant women age 20-35 in Belgium (1980)." Although the example is made up, it shows the preciseness and context of a research study.

There are too many variables that can have a severe impact on the accuracy of the research. Therefore, researchers must limit the sample based on which variables they wish to consider. This limit puts the study in a certain context. The context of our example would be pregnant women age 20-35 in Belgium during the 1980s.

The problem occurs when the relatively subjective work of researchers is published through the objective paradigms of reporters. There is nothing wrong with reporters being objective. Crime stories, articles on the campaign trail, and natural disasters need to be reported objectively without much consideration for issues of race, gender, class, age, etc.

However, in the research world, these can all be variables which affect the methods of research and the scope of research. That being said, when reporters remove these variables from the statistics in fear of being biased, they damn themselves in terms of accuracy and clarity. By removing the details of the sample the researcher selected, they have--as the book said--"made a journalistic mountain out of a research molehill."

If a reporter were to take a statistic from our example, say, 1 out of 3 women in the study experienced a miscarriage while taking aspirin (made up statistic), and removed the context, it would sound like every woman would be affected by this. We know better because the make-believe researcher only studied women age 20-35 in Belgium during the 1980s.

Although there is a possibility that this could affect every culture and age the same throughout time, we don't know because it hasn't been proven by research. Thus, we see a clash of conventions. The reporter wasn't overtly lying; however, the information that she gave was not put in context and has the potential to be misleading.

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October 20, 2005

Crime and Punishment

I will be completely honest. I did not enjoy the unit on crime reporting. But there is value to this form of news writing. First, the public needs to be informed of crime and needs to know if the justice system is working. Second, scandal sells. This may seem cynical, but in a capitalist society, even the papers are ruled by corporations. We're not out to discover the truth, we're out to sell papers. Sex and violence sells. Therefore, we must cover crime.

But the most important issue in crime reporting is the one I mentioned in class: people need that sense of closure.

When we bombard readers with the gory, juicy details of crimes, they need to know how the bloody fiasco ends. It seems the American media consumers are reminiscent of those in the play-turned-movie Chicago. Heaven knows the subject of the media changes as quickly in real life as in the movie.

This is what keeps people coming back for more papers (and what gives the CEOs of newspaper industries their wealth). Closure is what keeps us reading the novels we buy, the movies we watch, and the plays we see. People generally want justice to prevail or at least be informed when it doesn't.

The catchy headline and the excruciatingly juicy details of the story get the reader to pick up the paper, but the search for closure keeps the reader coming back.

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October 12, 2005

Diversity in Journalism

"If we think of journalism as social cartography, the map should include news of all our communities, not just those with attractive demographics or strong appeal to advertisers. To do otherwise is to create maps with whole areas missing."
-The Elements of Journalism
This metaphor is especially helpful because it shows how journalism builds community. When one area is excluded the picture is incomplete. As journalists, we need to be attentive to issues of diversity. A sense of comprehensiveness cannot be reached without including news that affects people of different demographics.

This is not to say that we must include every nationality, race, gender, class, etc. as news, but to cover news that affects every nationality, race, gender, class, etc. The Elements of Journalism talks about a strong desire in the 80's to cover news that only affects the people that the ads target. Tying it back to the previous chapters, journalistic values must not be sacrificed to the business gods. Making journalism a business primarily dilutes the qualities of good journalism, therefore creating this dilemma.

Posted by EvanReynolds at 9:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Growing Pains

Now, I don't usually look at the business section of the paper--being the commie that I am ;')--but an article there struck me. It was about Microsoft and the problems it faces with the younger, more innovative competetors (Yahoo, Google, etc). I read the article and it sounded more like a bureaucratic commentary than a full-fledged straight news article. Then I wondered what the conventions are for Business writing.
This spurred a mini investigation on my part, which was to no avail.

Does anyone know the conventions of business journalism?

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September 27, 2005

Homecoming Story Ideas

  1. Open Classes: what is this? Who are the professors involved? How will the classes be affected?
  2. Pittsburgh Society of Sculptors: Who are they? What specifically will they be presenting? Who is invited?
  3. Fireworks display: How will they do this? Who are the pyrotechnicians? Where on campus?

I would have to dig for sources from Jamie Steel, but I think these are some good suggestions.

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September 25, 2005

Blogging Portfolio Cover

The following link to an entry/comment I've made that describe the requirement. (Note to professor: each number in the list corresponds to both the requirement and the entry)

  1. Xenoblogging/Discussions, etc.(Entries that show interaction)

  2. Timeliness(Entries that were timely)

  3. Coverage(Entries that covered a topic to the fullest extent)

  4. Depth(Deep, intense and introspective entries)

  5. Wildcard(A surprise entry)

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A Guide to News Writing

Within the first two chapters of the Associated Press Guide to News Writing, I had been taken back to EL 236: Writing for the Internet. The general idea of reaching the widest possible audience crystallized with the ideology of web writing. In many ways they are similar. Cutting wordiness and not just words is a common theme in both print and online journalism. You can cut words, but some words are critical to the effect of the writing. One example in the book demonstrates this:

“It is unusual in the Legislature to have a conference with more than four members.”

“A conference committee with more than four members is unusual.”

This same concept is conveyed in fewer words by using the right words in the right way.

Getting to the point is a major theme with both writing genres. By getting to the point, you lose wordiness. The guide also suggests to put verbs in the active voice. This causes the reader to see exactly who is doing what on who/what and how it is affecting who/what.

By being objective, we have gotten to the point. Giving opinions just doesn't work. It is too much extra information that most people don't have time for. Objectiveness gives the facts and lets the reader come up with the opinion.

In news writing you must be descriptive, but not overtly colorful or cliché. This is to give the reader a glimpse of what happened and what it looked like while avoiding bias and keeping transparency.

If you can remember to get to the point (of the story), you can remember all the other concepts because most of them stem from getting to the point.

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September 24, 2005

The Elements (and Theory) of Journalism

The first few chapters of the book, The Elements of Journalism takes journalism into social and historical contexts. I think it was helpful to see how journalism evolved and to look for patterns to see where it is going. In the section marked, "A Free Press in the Electronic Age," the statement:

"The new journalist is no longer deciding what the public should know. She is helping audiences make order out of it."
-The Elements of Journalism

This has much philosophical value. Rather than become the "expert," the journalist becomes the medium through which the truth is passed. In communication theory, Reddy makes a case that information is interpreted and not simply received. The truth is not received in a coherent manner when a person reads the paper, but it must be interpreted by the reader.

I feel this ideal is empowering to the reader. By downplaying the role of the journalist (ie: excluding biases and involvment), the reader becomes the ultimate seeker of the truth. The reader can say whether a situation was right or wrong, good or bad, or just or injust.

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September 16, 2005

Is That Off the Record?

In going to interview residence life staff members for a newswriting article, I found--more than ever--the degree of action involved in maintaining residence halls and residents. I also experienced "off the record" to the extreme. Phone calls were going off left and right, the directors had to communicate several things that I had to stop writing for a while and just listen. This made it difficult to discern what was on the record and what was off.

I was interviewing about residence halls, but some of the comments did not pertain to the angle of my article. This experience made me stop and appreciate the work that goes into giving a good on-campus living experience. So if you see Dr. Robin anywhere, thank her for her work. I think the res. life staff and she deserve more credit than they are often given. And that's off the record!

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September 13, 2005

Evan Needs Your Help!

How many of you bloggers out there have a LiveJournal, Typepad, or other blogging community not directly related to academics? Or do you know of another non-academic community out there? The reason I ask is because I want to conduct a research article on community and networks in blogs.

I want to do a media analysis of non-academic weblog communities and apply and evaluate some of the theory, vocabulary, and conceptions of academic communities to non-academic communities. It is one of my goals to study media studies in grad. school. I hope sending my work for evaluation will get my feet wet and my name out there.

Some issues that I will seek to address:

  1. The social pragmatics and "netiquette" of these communities.

  2. The issues of power and privilege and the implications.

  3. The issues of communication and communication efficacy.

  4. The concepts of identity and "self".

  5. How the community works as a whole and the direction.

  6. Issues of gender.

  7. How the label of "non-academic" affects of transcends the community.

It is quite likely that I will be looking at these issues through the lens of Marxism or Queer theory. The only thing I ask is that this community be random. It must be diverse in gender, political affiliation, race (if possible), etc. (I am looking for a community parallel to the Seton Hill blogosphere, but non-academic). Please give me feedback or feel free to ask any questions about my research.

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April 15, 2005

MT 3.15 is Here!!!

Just in case any blogger out in the SHU blogosphere hasn't noticed...

We now have Movable Type 3.15 and Dr. Jerz is now in the process of upgrading. So, if you are wondering why your login site looks a little off: this is why.

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March 12, 2005

Drive-by blogging

You asked for it... so here it comes...

As mentioned in Literary Tease and Jerz's Literacy Blog, here is my official definition of "drive-by blogging," the word I coined in EL150 this semester.

Drive-by blogging (noun)- the action of shooting off random comments on an academic weblog for the purpose of commenting in itself.

*This is different from spamming whereas, spamming is directed at people you don't know (usually at blog communities to which the spammer is not affiliated).

*This is different from flaming because flamming is not random, and drive-by blogging is not necessarily offensive.

Drive-by blogging is distinguished because it is within the community and the comments have no agenda. The comments also have absolutely nothing to do with the entry itself.

Examples of drive-by blogging:

That's my definition and I'm sticking to it!

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March 7, 2005

Blogging from the White House

Garrett Graff, in the wake of the Jeff Gannon controversy, may be the first blogger to be granted a White House press pass to maintain a weblog. This controversy of Jeff Gannon causes us to raise some serious questions about the medium of blogging. One question could be: how can we discern who is a legitimate blogging journalist or not?

You may recall I explored similar issues last year with my Internet Writing class (Kaycee Nicole). These issues of legitimacy are extremely complicated and poke at a sensitive area of our Bill of Rights: the First Amendment. Before we point the finger at Graff and accuse him of something he has not yet done (and hopefully never will), please consider the blog as a corruptable--yet not inherently bad--institution. Blogging is a medium, a tool. Blogging is like a kitchen knife: usefull and constructive for many things--in the right hands. But it is not the kitchen knife that hurts people, organizations, etc.

People are to blame for bad reporting in the blogging genre. Restricting people's ability to freely blog is not only unfair, but also unjust. It would be just about as ridiculous as putting restrictions on kitchen knives. (Maybe we can save people from being sliced or stabbed??!! ) Putting restrictions on the media through which people can express themselves puts only more restrictions on how people can express themselves.

Therefore, I would argue that it is not relevant what negative effect a medium can have. Media are simply a tool we can use to pass on information, not living things with minds of their own (people). It is not very productive to put restrictions on blogging; for that is not addressing the source of the problem, the unjust acts of the people behind the blogs. Blogging can be just as powerful a medium for positive and honest journalism--so long as we control the people, not the mediation.

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