BCM310, Uncategorized

Reimaging Cities: Kuala Lumpur, A Reflective Summary

Reimaging Cities: Kuala Lumpur is a visual-audio project that has become a very personal one to me. What started off with an idea of making a video about how the media has a somewhat ‘evil’ power over the universal perception of cities, this research project has gone beyond that. It is an introspection on the intricacies of life living in Kuala Lumpur, what it means to be a Malaysian and re-identifying KL by those who live in it, breaking through hovering media narratives. Most importantly, it is a film about belonging.

I managed to source of media narratives from different outlets – online and offline news, first-hand observations about the city, and interviewing a group of young Malaysians of different background and fields. The process was a little overwhelming at first due to the massive amount of information, opinions and angles but it remained very clear that despite recent events our country had to and is still going through, Malaysians still identify Kuala Lumpur, their home. It is a matter of portraying a sense of community and pride using the vast network of the Internet.

A report by the Pew Research Centre researched on the role of news in Facebook and Twitter and found out that when it comes specifically to news and information about government and politics, Facebook users are more likely to post and respond to content, while Twitter users are more likely to follow news organizations. Reflecting on the media narratives of Malaysia, I realized that given today’s rapid dissemination of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, it takes only a click of a button to spread narratives / information like wildfire in an Australian desert. And, the image and perception of a city or a country is wholly based on that piece of information exposed to them in the news.

To effectively express my voice towards this topic which is close to my heart, I was inspired by a handful of short films made by some of my favourite Youtubers who make visually beautiful content which leaves an impact. Sliding away from the vlogging style of most Youtubers, I take cues from the likes of Soul Pancake, Will Darbyshire and JacksGap, to create an integrated form of film-making using stop-motion, interviews, first-person narration, visual tricks and introspection which goes beyond a morning cup of coffee or commuting within the city. Some of which are almost never expressed on commercial media.

I think one of the main challenges whilst creating this video is thinking how to portray a message effectively on camera without just sitting down and speaking about it. With this video, I strive to attract and engage my audience, in hopes of provoking thought, emotion, introspection and conversation about what a city represents beyond the media narratives and what they can do about portraying our home in a more genuine and intimate light. And with that in mind, the creating process can be a very tedious and sweaty one. I realized when you put every ounce of effort and energy into crafting every second of your narrative, you know your film inside-out and understands the complexity in film-making.

The more the city is part of our lives, the more comfortable we are in calling it home. Reimaging Cities: Kuala Lumpur is the lens I invite the world to look into and learn about my home, the one under scrutiny in your daily newspaper.

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BCM310

Like if you feel for this boy

We all know for a fact that those social media likes and shares allegedly showing that you “care”, doesn’t make any difference to the situation. Except that maybe your sense of pride?

 

Aylan Kurdi was three-years-old and on his way to seek in Greece away from the Syrian bloodshed. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it to Greece in his families’ failed attempt in saving him from a capsizing boat. His dead body was washed ashore in Turkey one Wednesday morning and the scene created a lot of buzz around the Syrian refugee situation – a much-needed wake-up call.

 

The picture went viral within hours and it spoke by itself. It suddenly became something everybody was talking about from something people shove under the carpet for years. The struggle is now real.

 

I remember I was having dinner with a friend one night and he asked me, “So, now we have two boats. One boat of people thinks that the photographer who took that unpleasant picture did a good job in taking the picture and publishing for the public’s view. The other boat of people thinks that the photographer should have showed some respect for the deceased baby or at least, the family who has just lost their son and not have taken the photo. Which boat are you on?”

 

After a long thought about it, I picked boat two at the time, because I thought it was the ‘human’ thing to do. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that being ‘human’ is also about helping one another and if this issue is not being acted upon, wouldn’t it be more ‘human’ to publicise such an impactful picture and slap this issue onto the face of the world? It wasn’t a matter of ethics, it was a matter of duty. Was there really another way to shed light on the Syrian refugees that would have had the same level of impact as the picture of the Kurdi boy did?

Since that journalism workshop I went to when I was 12 and all that social work I enjoyed doing in my high school years, the ultimate dream has been to be a photojournalist under the United Nations or an NGO and go on assignments in third-world countries. I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless, but what I recently realized is that maybe I just enjoy looking at well-taken pictures of people living poor conditions, no matter how sadistic that sounds. With that said, I enjoy looking at aesthetically beautiful things in general and it could be of people living in bad conditions, flowers, rundown infrastructure etc.

 

“It was one thing to try to wake humanity up to suffering in the world via photographs from the early years of the
last century through the golden age of photojournalism in the 1940’s and 50’s, when most people saw distant
places and learned of faraway disasters through photographs, but it is another thing to try to do so now, when the
number of images that flash across television and computer screens diminishes the value of any single image you
may see. Photographers deal with this problem differently, but above all by struggling to make beautiful pictures:
what causes any image to stick in the mind, aside from shock content, whose impact tends to be brief, are qualities
like pictorial integrity and compositional originality, which are fancy terms for beauty. If your subject happens to be the dislocation of people and their suffering, then those people and that suffering become your compositional
devices,” Michael Kimmelman writes in an article on suffering being beautiful for the The New York Times.

 

Being a photojournalist has never been such a self-revolutionizing question but my photojournalism dreams have not changed and I don’t think wanting to take pictures of people suffering is entirely a bad thing. As long as it tells a story worth-telling, it is good storytelling.

 

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BCM310

Finding the Self in a Selfie

I brought along my bulky camera to work on the last day of my internship. Monocle have spent too much thought and kachings effort on its very zen Singapore bureau for me not to take some shots of it. Without giving it much thought, I knew I needed to have a photo of myself at my favourite nook in the colonial double-terraced lot, the fitting room. So, I took a mirrored selfie in that small confined space.

 

Personally, I’m not very into the selfie scene but I guess, it is beginning to rub onto me when I don’t always have someone there to take a proper photo of me. That could be the initial cause of the sudden increase of selfies but as The Guardian estimated, the selfie phenomenon boomed when the iPhone4 was launched with a front-facing camera, making the selfie instantaneous and fuss-free. In 2014, America found that 91% millennials posted photos of themselves online, a significant climb from 79% in 2006. The selfie phenomenon has become a daily norm for millennials. If you don’t take a selfie during your vacation or doing something cool, it is almost as if it never happened. Are selfies no longer just a form of documentation of done-thats and have-beens, but a communal breeding ground for self-narcissism and exaggerated facades?

 

I’d like to think of a selfie as an onion. The more layers you peel, the more you understand it.

 

Like an onion, a selfie sends less-pungent messages about yourself, stringing together a pretty facade of what you want others to think of you. A simple example would be a selfie of you chilling at the pristine Balinese beach with your piña colada in one hand. That tells your online posse three things: 1. You’re on vacation in Miami, at least that’s where you checked in at 2. You’re doing quite well for yourself to be able to afford Miami, considering we graduated together 3. I suck and you’re an alcoholic. Okay, maybe not the last one but hey, better be aware than a passive drinker.

 

Sometimes the more layers you peel, the more you don’t understand it. I’m sure the first ever person to slice an onion didn’t expect to cry! As much as I like judging people based on their online identity because who doesn’t? Sometimes, what you see online is not what you get. In fact, it is most of the time, far from the image you have of the person.

 

I particularly like to shed light on Vivian Maier. In 2007, 26-year-old historian and collector John Maloof wandered into a local auction house across from his home in Chicago and won, for USD350, a box of 30,000 undeveloped film negatives by an unknown photographer who shot street photographs of mid-century Chicago and New York. And of course, that unknown photographer was Vivian Maier, who nannies by trade and takes photographs on her days off. Maloof tracked down more of Vivian Maier’s work but it wasn’t only after Maier’s death in 2009 did her remarkable work gain international acclaim — exhibitions were staged all over the world, magnificent monograph of her photographs published, and a documentary made.

 

Maier_055, 6/25/13, 9:50 AM, 16C, 5736x5466 (152+1453), 100%, Custom, 1/60 s, R36.6, G8.6, B22.8

Self-Portrait, Undated

Maier_038, 5/3/13, 6:43 PM, 16C, 5732x6036 (154+883), 100%, Custom, 1/60 s, R43.0, G14.7, B28.4

Self-Portrait, 1956

vivianmaier_selfportraits6

Self-Portrait, 1955

vivianmaier_selfportraits11

Self-Portrait; October 18, 1953, New York, NY

vivianmaier_selfportraits8

Self-Portrait, Undated

 In 2013, a collection of Maier’s most personal and intimate self-portraits – Vivian Maier’s Self Portraits were released and although it gave the public a little peek into the mysterious life of Vivian Maier, the underlying question was/is still, “Who was Vivian Maier?”

It is hopelessly human to try to read others and put them into categories based on the “scraps of evidence” they bequeath but no matter how much layers you peel, we will never know who exactly Vivian Maier was nor will we fully understand the motive behind the pina colada selfie. Taking cues from Papova of Brain Pickings, at the end of the day, “a human being is a constantly evolving open question rather than a definitive answer, a fluid self only trapped by the labels applied from without”. 

 

You’d probably find a small piece of the self in a selfie but to truly understand a person, it goes beyond a collection of photographs posted on a public or private sphere, it takes consistent conversations, effort and time.

 

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BCM210

Analyzing the other “F” word

Nope, not that “F” you’re thinking about, you!

Feminism.

The other “F” word which has claimed its unofficial ‘dirty word’ status in the eyes of the media. Women’s issues have been a burning topic that I personally have been very interested in talking about, just creating a conversation about it because let’s be honest here, women employees in a common corporate workspace still earns lesser than a man employee doing the same job and girls in certain countries are banned from going to university or even school! (Basij-Rasikh, 2013) In this world of accessibility, connections and technology, I feel like women’s issues and feminism is not taken as seriously as it should be, in the media especially since it is one of the most influential platforms there are these days. Since the 1960’s, there have been women’s rights movements blooming out gradually but yet, the topic of feminism still receives less or close to none coverage on the news and even if there were some coverage, it is usually insignificant and bias. (Beck, 1998)

This research paper by Debra Baker Beck from the University of Wyoming, entitled The “F” Word: How the Media Frame Feminism” paints a picture of how the media has framed and is currently framing feminism in the media channels available – broadcast, print and film – and how that framing affects society’s response towards the movement and its objectives, be it positive or negative. This paper taps into what defines feminism and how there are different diversified viewpoints and experiences of what feminism is as well as the ability for people to deal with it effectively, given the distaste for what feminists are usually portrayed as in the society as “active, assertive women” who wishes to overpower the male counterparts.

The structure of the paper started with defining feminity in the media and how even in the word “woman” is riddled with cultural codes conveyed in various media texts. According to a 1989 study, there are a lot of females who champions the movement, such as equal wage, job discrimination and abortion rights, tend to shy away from being labelled as a feminist, purely because of what the society and the external environment see them as women “who does not need a man to survive” or a women who despises men. Beck explores more into the media’s point of view on why feminism is portrayed negatively in the media is a matter of staying ‘objective’ and ‘on the fence’, according to their ‘journalistic practice. Personally, I do agree that as a journalist, the ethical thing to do when writing a statement piece or a reportage of a movement is to stay on the fence and write both sides of the story. But when it comes to feminism, it is difficult to stay ‘objective’ when most of the media management or editors are men. Isn’t that a standpoint in itself? Where is the variation in perspective in that? Beck included a section in the paper giving examples of the progress of female roles in the media and whether there was a significant amount of progress over the years. Good news! There was seemingly some progress in growing out of the conventional ‘damsel-n-distress’ situations and into roles like a family woman with a job and happy single women etc. At least the female protagonists in movies don’t have to spend every waking hour worrying about catching a man!

Overall, I think this journal plays a part in establishing a space, physical or virtual, where females and men of the movement are able to exchange views and opinions of this topic which not only affects females as per say, but also men in general. The media plays a huge role in framing public opinion and views on issues and I think women’s issues should not be left out of the conversation because “treating women and their concerns seriously in the media would go a long way to getting society to take them seriously” (Beck, 1998).

Feminism should no longer be the other “F” word, but the “F” word.

References:

Beck, D. B. 1998, “The “F” Word: How the Media Frame Feminism”, NWSA Journal, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring 1998), pp. 139-153

Basij-Rasikh, S 2013, Youtube Video, “Dare to educate Afghan girls”, TED.com, link at http://www.ted.com/talks/shabana_basij_rasikh_dare_to_educate_afghan_girls

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BCM210

Analyzing the afro

Hair At Union Square

Hair at Union Square by Steve Ives (Flickr)

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

Really?

This overused statement remains true to a certain level as let’s be honest here, the beholder does not have a one-way street outlook to what beauty is. Rather, it is constantly being shaped and evolved into different perceptions by various portrayals and giant factors in the external environment like the media. The Asian eyes, the Afro-American hair, the Indian skin; how one is seen and, therefore, what one sees have become crucial to one’s existence as a person. Researching around this thought-provoking topic of genuine beauty redefined through the judgmental eye of society, Deborah R. Grayson wrote an interesting paper entitled, “Is It Fake? Black Women’s Hair as Spectacle and Spec(tac)ular”, focusing on how African-American women live through societal situations against the norm of what beauty means, just because of having coarse Afro hair – which caught my attention.

 

Finding the 20-page piece from a collective of journals on feminism, culture and media called Camera Obscura published by the Duke University Press; the journal identifies hair as a prominent issue of political, economic and social significance for many Black people, especially for Black women. Black women are constantly reminded, if not too harshly put – forced, to cave into social norms of acceptance or rejection by groups and individuals about their hairstyle and body appearance and Grayson has addressed how Black women manipulate and change their hair and its meaning in the hierarchized system of beauty culture (in which Black looks are usually devalued) as well as the reason of this recurring issue based on observations, consumer culture and case studies to support her standpoint. As a non-African-American, I think Grayson tapped into the science of the issue just right as a neutral party, without touching emotional triggers which might seem bias and if worse, racial.

 

Grayson took an easy approach on attempting to portray her points subtly-yet-reader-friendly. She structured the journal in firstly touching a little on the background of hair and hairstyles in the Black community which more often than not, has a huge focus on the usage of beauty aids and prominent hair positioning and then easing slowly into how Black women do not “simply react to what beauty mandates, they also recreate and redefine beauty culture”. (Grayson, 1995) Throughout the whole journal, Grayson used real-life examples to bring the audience into a timeline of what may and might have contributed to this social stigma, from how the business of the conventional ‘straight haired and fair-skinned’ Barbie dolls capitalized on the belief of the ideal American feminine beauty, to how the dirty advertising stint of Rio Hair Products made women believe that its products would straighten their hair without damaging it with the use of intense heat or chemicals which of course, turned out to be not true and worse, life-threatening. Black women’s hair has, as Grayson put it, ‘systematically and consistently become a juridical issue’ and also a factor of discrimination in work and social spaces which needs not only to be addressed but also, taken action upon.

 

I think this journal by Deborah Grayson has made an impact in me, in many layers. As a student researching about how the media plays a role in social representation, I am able to grasp an idea of how unethical advertising has the ability and capability to shape mass public’s perception on a personal feature. As an ardent media conversationalist, this research journal is a good kickstarter for more conversations on how the mass media and media content shapes society and how we, as content creators have the responsibility and ability to shape society to a better collective of mindsets. As a feminist, this journal sheds light on the repressing issue of gender inequality and discrimination against the simple human right of living without being judged by our looks and features.

So, how do you see beauty, beholder?

Reference:

Grayson, D.R. 1995, “Is it Fake? Black Women’s Hair as Spectacle and Spec(tac)ular”, Camera Obscura, , no. 36, pp. 13.

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BCM210

Researching research

Yes, I am as confused as you are.

As I am writing this post, I am doing research on what research is all about. It may seem pretty redundant to you, but trust me, I am in the same thought bubble as you are, if you know what I mean because I am clearly doing what I am studying to do. Whether I am doing it well enough, is probably another question all together. I think Arthur Berger (2014) got it most accurate when he disclosed that research in the simplest terms is to seek information. To find relevant information and data in helps of supporting an idea or to make a decision. It is actually a fancier way to name what we do everyday, analyse all the alternatives of an action or a product/service before making a decision. Consciously or subconsciously, we practise research everyday!

Whether it’s purchasing groceries for the week, shopping for that new midi skirt online, making new friends, planning a trip to Indonesia, getting textbooks for school or especially in the Malaysian culture context, where to eat? It’s all essentially, research!

And we’re actually already really good at it! In order to collect data and as much input as possible before making a decision, we utilize the magnificent platform of various search engines online, printed catalogs and magazines, the daily doses of gossip and small talk among friends and family, all to round up in quick analysis and lastly, making the decision. We are constantly comparing, collecting data, searching, asking questions and coming into conclusions. This is just the way of life, to put it in a more philosophical conclusion.

As to what area of media research I would like to endeavor upon this semester, I seriously have no idea but there are a couple of topics that have been in my thought process. The topics on stereotypes, the co-creation revolution, social media and society, media and its effects on children, the booming industry of reality TV and all that jazz but nothing really stood out to me, to be honest. I was in search of something against the norms, and something that attracts and maintains my interest in the media. And then, I stumbled upon Emma Watson and her #HeforShe campaign for feminism.

For the past few months, we have seen a wave of subtle feminism movements growing online and off, with more and more forums and talks on feminism. In Facebook feeds, Youtube comments and online forums, as well. A lot of light on this topic has been shed, both positive and negative ones but of course when it comes to the media, things get lost in translation and many interpretations can come out of it. As the weeks come along, I will be researching on media portrayals of feminism and perhaps, at the end of my research, we will get a better understanding of what it really means to be a feminist.

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BCM240

Dissecting how I blog

blogging

I used to write for the papers. Used to.

The reason why I don’t do it as much now is as unclear to me as the sky right now while I’m writing this post in a coffee shop with my laptop club mates*. Growing up, I’ve always had this peculiar affinity towards writing and getting my stuff recognized and so, you can imagine when the opportunity to get some of my stuff published in the papers, I’d grab it and just let my penmanship take flight.

So what happened? Well, to be honest, I wouldn’t say my love for writing died but contrarily,  it evolved. It evolved to a different kind of writing. Writing in a different context, in a different environment, to a different audience. Blogging or writing online content to be published on this virtual space where everybody and anybody is able to be exposed to your words and thoughts. A big part of blogging is that the writing and reading experience are no longer bounded by geographical and physical spacial barriers, but rather in contrast it has become an occurrence of detracting one’s conscious mind into this ‘virtual reality’, categorized by tabs, interfaces, HTML codes and platforms. I guess, being in a virtual reality where everything is at the tip of your fingers also means that there are more distractions and chances for going astray. So, for somebody to really read your content, your blogging style has to be tweaked according to the tastes and attention span of your audience.

Throughout my blogging experience, I have come to terms that it is like communicating with my target audience which are specific and a niche-kind of reader. My readers, people who find relevance and interest in what content you put out there. And with all the distractions online and other blogrolls on WordPress, it is quite difficult I would assume to stand out from the rest, especially when content might come out as similar. So, I would always try to think of a catchy title for all of my blogposts to make that one initial impression. Accompanying that would be an eye-catching and high-definition cover picture to support my headline with a visual aid. I did a self-reflection before my blogging streak about what I like and the kind of blogs I follow and one common thing among the blogs in my subscription list was that all of them had really good visuals and clear prettily-taken photographs to help the blogger/author tell his or her story. So, that was what I did as I’m a firm believer of blogging being a collection of little fragments of yourself. Thus, I write as how I like to read. This holds a strong contrast with writing for the papers in the sense that you have no power or ownership with the headline of your article because it goes through gatekeepers before getting published, to suit the target audience of the cooperation. As for visuals, you have no power over positioning and the amount of pictures that goes onto the section.

Another thing I realized about the blogs in my subscription list is that there all have simplistic yet subtle designs which I think I am subconsciously and consciously attracted to. Personally, I am a sucker for sleek and simple designs. I find myself scrolling and navigating a website or a blog when it has pretty tabs and blogpost to look at and navigate around. So, as for the design of my blog, I wanted to portray something that is like a mirror to my tastes. Thus, I’ve decided to choose this monochrome and simple template from WordPress and also made it easy to navigate between widgets, tabs, pages and categories. Because if there is one thing I’ve realised throughout my blogging stint, the attention span of a netizen lasts up to 8 minutes and you always want to make things easier for people and fill them in about things they don’t know they need to know. So, exist to impress!

Being a person who has this love-hate relationship with photography and capturing moments into film, I particularly loved looking into the media context of public versus the private space as we talked about the science behind largely successful photo-curation site, Humans of New York (HONY) , during lecture 6. Being an avid follower of the site for two years now, this was the first time I’ve ever thought about HONY in the public space versus private space context! What does it mean to photograph or comment on what you see in public space but of private stories? How should people feel when you write about their private lives and post them up online where obviously are all open to the public’s eye? These questions and issues followed me throughout the weeks that followed and I’ve also based my digital storytelling project on the dilemma of content in a public space versus a private space  which I’m very excited about, to be very honest!

This semester has taken a real toll on me in terms of being consistent with my postings and well, if I’m being totally honest it is due to sheer procrastination. I guess being involved in multiple things and organizations at the same time whilst juggling between studies and social life is no easy task and yes, I know what’s going through your mind right now is “Girl, you need some time management skills!” Well, my comeback is that yeah maybe I do but if you think about it. Time is uncontrollable to man and it will pass no matter what you do. So really, there isn’t a hing called Time Management because one just cannot manage or control time. However, what we can control is ourselves. What we do with time and how we set our priorities and keep ourselves away from all kinds of distractions that may or may not affect us. This pretty little thing called self-management.

With all that said, I vow to myself to be more consistent in blog posting next semester and am definitely looking forward to more and more media realizations along the way.

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