Month: March 2014

The Techne Mentor: Pushing Digital Media Forward (EMAC 6300 Midterm)

EMAC 6300 Midterm

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Is There Room For ‘Flawless’ Feminism?

Beyoncé - Flawless marketing lessons

*Photo taken from Beyonce CD art work*

On Friday, December 13, 2013, singer Beyonce released her self-titled album strictly on iTunes. She sent fans into a downloading frenzy, as the actual hard copy of the CD was not available until a few weeks later. One of the album’s songs, “Flawless”, was touted as a bonus track on the album. “Flawless” features Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as well. However, Chimamanda is not featured in the sense that she was in the studio with Beyonce recording her part of the song. Her featured section is actually a collection of unaltered snippets from her TEDx speech that she gave in April 2013, speaking about feminism and its misconceptions. The song also features an old audio clip from an episode from Star Search, in which Girls Tyme (a precursor to Beyonce’s former group, Destiny’s Child) competed. The snippets of the Star Search TV show and most importantly the speech from Chimamanda highlight remix culture and exactly how it’s being used in pop culture today.

Beyonce’s song “Flawless” was originally titled “Bow Down” and features the harsh lyrics “…..Don’t forget/Respect that/Bow down bitches/H-Town vicious”.  This isn’t quite the message that Ms. Adichie originally gave during her talk, “We Should All Be Feminists”.  She’s a Nigerian author and female activist, who has been recognized for her literary works well before Beyonce’s “Flawless” was even thought of. She uses title feminist boldly and does not understand why people in today’s society are often refer to it in a negative context. She embraces feminism and equality for women (and everyone else for that matter) full force. Although the song gives credit to Chimamanda and her speech, there has been no word on what her opinion of Beyonce’s use of her speech is.

The music industry specifically has thrown out a lot of backlash for those participants and users of the remix culture. Ironically, many musicians, including Beyonce, are taking part in this phenomenon. Remixing involves taking a piece of another culture, song, movie, speech, etc and mixing it in with a song. Many artists see this as copyright infringement of their work (if not used by permission), despite the exposure that the remixed version of their work may bring them. However, to their defense, who wants to miss out on any potential earnings of a successful song? In relation to Beyonce’s “Flawless” song, the question isn’t one of copyright infringement, but of faulty interpretation (being a strong, feminist woman vs. telling “bitches” to bow down). Could Beyonce’s example of remix pop culture present a flawed (pun intended) view of feminism, or at the very least one that Ms. Adichie (and other feminists) never intended?

Working Bibliography

“Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie On The TEDx Talk Beyonce Sampled and Why We Should Forget Feminism’s ‘Baggage’”, Huffington Post.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/06/chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-feminism_n_4907241.html

“Meet the Feminist Writer Beyonce Samples on Her New Album” US News

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/12/16/meet-the-feminist-writer-beyonc-samples-on-her-new-album

“We Should All Be Feminists: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at TEDx”

The Feminine Mystique. Friedan, Betty. 1963

The F Word, Contemporary UK Feminism

http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/category/feminism

Who Can We Really Trust?

Justin Bieber had<a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/08/showbiz/music/justin-bieber-2013/index.html'> a rough 2013</a>, and 2014 doesn't appear to be shaping up much better. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers searched an airplane -- thought to be the one pictured -- carrying Bieber and others on January 31, at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Officers said they detected an odor of what seemed like marijuana after the plane landed, law enforcement sources told CNN. It's just the latest development in a series of troubles for the pop star.

Photo Caption (photo and caption from CNN website): Justin Bieber had a rough 2013, and 2014 doesn’t appear to be shaping up much better. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers searched an airplane — thought to be the one pictured — carrying Bieber and others on January 31, at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Officers said they detected an odor of what seemed like marijuana after the plane landed, law enforcement sources told CNN. It’s just the latest development in a series of troubles for the pop star.

Media (and social media especially) has taken over our lives with such a strong force that we are now using it for everything from promotion to gossip, and sports to entertainment.  With this entire information overload, it’s sometimes difficult to determine which source is the best to use.  Facebook provides news feeds, detailed profile pages and like buttons. Twitter gives short informational bits with articles, pictures, quotes and hashtags. Instagram chooses to focus primarily on images and more recently, short video clips. Of course, there are countless others, but these are just some of the heavy hitters.  But what happens when these news sources, social media sites and collective online sources become too convoluted to sift through the diamonds from the useless rocks?

These media forms can take a life of their own, but they’re truly nothing without the people that use them. This is the point that Jaron Lanier makes in his article, “Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism”.  Although his harsh rant (“The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring”) is reserved primarily for Wikipedia, it’s easily transferrable to other platforms. How many times have people used home remedies or political commentary found online as trusted sources, only to be misled? Don’t all raise your hands at once. I’ve been a victim of this as well.  Trusted sources such as CNN and The New York Times are even beginning to add more “fluff” and less substance lately to keep the attention of the masses. By the masses I mean the general public whose attention span is shorter than the average Superbowl commercial.

Just today, CNN released an article with the headline, “Justin Bieber Jail Video to Be Released with His Private Parts Blurred”. There’s something to be said for lighthearted news. It’s funny, intriguing and someone has to do it. But is CNN really the source for it? I would expect an article like this to be reported on Huffington Post’s website, but not CNN. I don’t understand how Justin Bieber’s jail release is so newsworthy from such a historically trusted news source. Lanier makes no secret about his frustration with another trusted news source, The New York Times. He criticizes them for publishing “op-ed pieces supporting the pseudo-idea of intelligent design”. Again, the issue here isn’t so much on what’s being reported, but who is reporting it.

Even music, something that should be purely for entertainment purposes in some regards, is being reported incorrectly.  I would have to agree with Lanier’s opinion though that many of the most influential artists in pop music would probably not have made it on the musical rite of passage that is American Idol.  Lanier states that, “John Lennon wouldn’t have won. He wouldn’t have even made it to the finals. Or if he had, he would have ended up a different sort of person and artist”. Today I browsed Wikipedia about one of my favorite groups, TLC. Their page lists that they’ve won 5 Grammy Awards, when they’ve actually won 4. How do I know this? Well, not just because I’m a semi obsessed fan, but because it’s pretty much common knowledge that songwriting categories are awarded to the songwriters and not the artist. The group was listed as the winner of Best R & B Song for “No Scrubs”, a song the group performed, but did not write. This seems like it would have been a no brainer, but apparently someone cited it as a factual statement.

So where do we go from here? Are there enough people out there to decipher between what’s valid and what’s of no substance in the media and social media universe? Absolutely. The scary part, which I believe Lanier is stating, is that the lines are becoming more and more blurred. Some of our parents may believe that Wikipedia is just as good as an Encyclopedia. That’s when we have to step in as the techne mentors and educate them that it’s not as valid as they may think. Hopefully, the lines of distinction between trusted and invalid news bits become more prevalent in the years to come, and less murky.