Poverty porn: calling for change, not charity.

Since the media industry is developing significantly, new genres of media product have been emerging. Among those depicting ordinary topics, there are some that dig into more sensitive, strange and narrow aspects. In this blog post I will focus on the case of ‘poverty porn’, a genre that can be defined as any type of media exploiting the poor’s condition to create sympathy in order to sell newspapers, attract charity donations and support people (Roegnigk 2014).

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Human beings do feel sorry for the inferior, which I suppose you guys will all agree with me. Once we see a starving kid, a homeless person, an innocent citizen suffering from war or similar stuffs, we feel sorry for them at a certain degree. I understand that, you understand that and above all, the media understand that too. It is not difficult at all to find poverty porn elements in everything we encounter on a daily basis. We see such pitiful cases in pieces of news, TV shows and even images on Facebook. Exposure to such media products do make us sympathize with ones featured, but have you ever wondered what are the purposes behind all these ?

Obviously we can all understand that by showing such content, the media want us to be aware of other sides of the world which we may not know or even think that they exist. Moreover, we have a chance to realize the degree of seriousness of them by coming up with materials capturing what actually happens.

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“If I don’t take pictures like these, people like my mom will think war is what they see in movies” – war photographer Kenneth Jarecke.

That is the way it is. If we do not know enough, we can never develop enough sympathy or empathy. In this way, it cannot be denied that the media is doing a good job by introducing poverty porn to inform people (Middendorp 2015). However, the consequent actions that are called from poverty porn is what actually worth concerned.

I still remembered one detail in the video above about the story of Hollywood actor Jack Black and a homeless kid in Uganda when the kid told JB “I want to go with you” and he replied “I don’t think I can take you with me”. I liked the whole video in which Jack Black tried to raise funds to offer homeless kids education, except for that detail. Personally, I think that detail makes the whole mood of the video seem to be hopeless. I was born and grown up in Vietnam, a developing country in Southeast Asia in a middle class family. Although I live in one of the most modern city in the country, Hanoi, which is also the capital, I still encounter similar circumstances quite often. I see homeless kids on the street all the time and like anybody else, I always want to help them. I am pretty sure that when I was small, more than once when I saw a homeless kid I told my mom: “Can we take him home with us?” and I received the same response: “No we can’t. We don’t take them home, but we support them. That’s the way it is” and mom gave me something, maybe a little amount of money or food, and told me to gave it to them. And from those moments on, I realized that is how life works. It is not fair for everyone, but who are more privileged can support inferior ones, to make it less unfair (Beresford 2016).

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The above points lead me to my final conclusion. I do not say that people should not adopt homeless kids or offer the poor people or those in harsh situations a new better life. The ones who do that are so admirable as they turn on the light in those dark segments of life. However, that should not be the purpose of poverty porn. By introducing poverty porn, the media should not encourage people to adopt homeless kids because that does not solve the problem radically (Dortonne 2016). There are millions of abandoned kids that we cannot adopt them all, and we avoid the issue by taking home the kids that stay in front of our eyes and fool ourselves to forget the all the remaining kids behind our back. Media makers, through poverty porn, should encourage people to support the inferior instead, by offering them opportunities to earn a better life themselves (for example, education) and beyond that, challenge the policies that push them into, or do not let them get out of those situations (Allen and Silver 2014). Instead of “neglect and obscure the systemic challenges and compounding disadvantages that people face”, the media should “deliver policies that can affect the challenging realities” (Allen and Silver 2014).

Poverty porn should call for change, not for charity. Because that is the way it is.

Reference:

Allen, K and Silver, D 2014, It’s easy to hate ‘poverty porn’ but harder to fight inequality, The Conversation, viewed March 31st 2017, <https://theconversation.com/its-easy-to-hate-poverty-porn-but-harder-to-fight-inequality-33555&gt;.

Beresford, P 2014, ‘Presenting welfare reform: poverty porn, telling sad stories or achieving change?’, Disability & Society, Vol. 31 Issue 3, pp. 421-425.

Dortonne, N 2016, The dangers of poverty porn, CNN, viewed March 23rd 2017, <http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/08/health/poverty-porn-danger-feat/&gt;.

Middendorp, C 2015, Poverty porn: look at these vulnerable people, The Canberra Times, viewed March 23rd 2017, <http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/are-pictures-of-the-vulnerable-poverty-porn-20151003-gk0qv6.html&gt;.

Roegnigk, E 2014, 5 Reasons poverty porn empowers the wrong person, One.org, viewed March 23rd 2017, <https://www.one.org/us/2014/04/09/5-reasons-poverty-porn-empowers-the-wrong-person/&gt;.

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Blog Reflection.

Throughout the process of studying BCM288, I have come up with a range of topics which provide me with a comprehensive knowledge about transnational media and culture. In this blog, I will briefly summary my understanding achieved from the course.

First of all, I have understood the meaning of this field of study to media audiences. This is the era where communication is so developed that people are no longer want to stay solely within their native culture and network anymore. Beyond that, they want to approach a range of different cultures and perspectives. Therefore, it is witnessed that different types of media with various content and origins are being enjoyed by audiences with diverse backgrounds. MasterChef, an Australian series creating a huge wave in India or If you are the one, a Chinese dating reality show being famous in Australia are several dominant examples. This phenomenon sets the foundation for ‘intercultural communication’, in which media content is able to approach a massive and diverse amount of audience by conveying universal values. It is understandable because according to Rohn 2009, universal values ‘can be detached from any culture’.

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Credit: Photobucket.

Secondly, knowledge about transnational culture and media is also beneficial for media producers. Due to the fact that audiences are looking for transnational media product, producers have to seek ways to satisfy that demand. As a result, cooperative events such as film festivals are established to provide producers with chances to meet, interact and exchange ideas (Stringer 2001). These kinds of events also promote co-production, which can be understood as the collaboration of producers to create hybrid products once they have achieved a common understanding. Film festivals varies from large and broad events namely Cannes, Berlin or London film festivals to small and centralized ones in Busan or Istanbul. Moreover, co-production can also attract government’s investment on cultural and media industries as producers are able to show their potential by working together (Kwon and Kim 2013).

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Credit: 48hourfilm.com.

Finally, I am taught to overcome barriers to be a part of cosmopolitanism. According to McLuhan 1964, with the help of technology and the Internet, the world is transitioning into a ‘global village’ where global citizens communicate across barriers. Stated by Waldron 2000, cosmopolitanism is when “all human beings belong to a single community”. Therefore, the Internet and other digital communication tools are providing me with not only opportunities but also responsibility to know, sympathize and support what is happening around me in a large scale. Wider news coverage about world issues raises the awareness of people about being more updated to be able to realize, understand, maintain what is good and fix what is not.  Virtual cosmopolitanism is a great movement for young people to turn social media practices, which used to be considered daily activities, into something really meaningful by broadening their network, achieving cultural understanding and forming new ‘third cultures’ (McEwan and Sobre-Denton, 2011).

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Credit: wslr.org.

To conclude, studying BCM288 allows me to understand the importance of transnational media and culture, which is essential to me as a person and in my future career working in the field of media. The subject raises my awareness that although there are still gaps and challenges in co-production or media piracy, the benefits of being actively engaged with intercultural practices to be a cosmopolitan and a global citizen are still significant.

References:

Kwon, S H and Kim, J 2013, ‘From censorship to active support: The Korean state and Korea’s cultural industries’, The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 24(4), pp.517-532.

McEwan, B and Sobre-Denton, M, 2011, Virtual cosmopolitanism: ‘Constructing third cultures and transmitting social and cultural capital through social media’, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 4(4), pp.252-258.

McLuhan, M 1964, Understanding media: The extensions of a man, McGraw-Hill, New York, USA.

Rohn, U 2009, Cultural Barriers to the Success of Foreign Media Content, Peter Lang, Frankfurt, Germany.

Stringer, J 2001, ‘Global cities and the international film festival economy’, Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context, pp.134-144.

Waldron, J 2000, ‘What is cosmopolitan?’, The Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 8, no. 2, p./pp 227-243.           

 

Media piracy: on the bright side.

It is obvious that in order to create high quality media content, the producers have to spend a lot of time and effort on the work. Therefore, they are deserved to receive in return what is respective with their dedication, in terms of both materiality and mentality (Karaganis 2011).

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Credit: The American Assembly.

Currently, media producers are struggling with a phenomenon when their products are being distributed in a massive amount, at a low cost and most importantly, without their awareness and permission. This is what is defined by Karaganis 2011 as ‘media piracy’. ‘Media piracy’ is more likely to happen in developing countries where policies against copyright infringement are not as effective as that in developed nations. Furthermore, even in developed countries, media piracy still exists in the form of consumer goods in grocery stores, especially those of immigrants. For example, in Australia, it is totally possible to buy un-authorized DVDs with a relatively low price in, for example, Asian or Indian grocery stores (Athique 2006).This notion is serious in the way that media content is made available at a much lower price than what the producers want and the money earned is not going into their accounts.

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Credit: WordPress.

However, this situation can also have a bright side. According to Karaganis 2011, ‘high prices for media goods, low incomes and cheap digital technologies’ are the main reasons leading to media piracy. As mentioned before, media piracy is more popular in developing countries, where have lower living standard so people have to spend their little earnings on many expenses, which makes official, copyrighted media products something too luxurious.  Therefore, the question is: “Do people have unequal right of consuming media content because of their different circumstances? “. In this way, media piracy brings about the ‘mentality’ return (mentioned above) to producers as it promotes media circulation and distribution by giving chances to more audiences to consume (Jenkins 2004). This argument is reasonable in the way that without exposure, or audiences, media content is just worthless regardless of the quality because no one realizes or even knows about it. Therefore, media piracy can be considered a trade-off for media producers.

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Credit: MakeUseOf.com.

On a whole, if media producers want to create high quality, not just ‘high grossing’ products, this is what they want to achieve. With a larger amount of audiences, media producers and their products are more likely to be known and recognized. This explains why nowadays more and more artists are choosing to distribute their products publicly on digital platforms for free. Latest hits or music videos with high quality are released online requiring no fees for audiences. In this way, media producers promote their reputation both in number and scale, which can earn them money in return from advertising activities or concert.

References:

Athique, Adrian Mabbott 2006, ‘Bollywood and ‘grocery store’ video piracy in Australia’, Media international Australia, no. 121, pp. 41-51.

Karaganis, J 2011, Media Piracy in Emerging Economies, Social Science Research Council, United States of America.

Jenkins, H 2004, When Piracy Becomes Promotion, MIT Technology Review, viewed October 24th 2016, <https://www.technologyreview.com/s/402969/when-piracy-becomes-promotion/&gt;.

 

 

 

Television memories interview: reflection

Recently I have conducted a interview with Mr Dario, my landlord who is around 50, about his memories with home television. It was an interesting conversation as I had the opportunity to discover about Australian home lifestyle from the perspective of a foreigner as well as to further understand about experience TV.

There are several details in the conversation that I can predict by relating to my own experience. First of all, the TV described was a black and white TV which was the same as what we have in our house when I was a kid. The TV were only equipped with two broadcast stations which finished at midnight and came back early the next morning. I used to experience the same situation as we have really limited choices to watch years ago. Mr Dario also stated that as a kid, he only enjoyed cartoons due to both personal taste and the limited options. This is totally understandable to almost every kid. Another detail is the space where the TV was located was the lounge room with the purpose of family gathering. He used to watch it with his brother sitting on the floor in front of the TV which I can recall because that what I did with my elder brother as well.

One interesting point I can draw from the above details is that if I conduct the same interview with a person younger than me, the family gathering experience may not be mentioned due to the fact that nowadays people are equipped with so many recreational choices enabled by technology (smartphones, tablets, the Internet). Fortunately, I still can have this experience because gathering in the living room watching the news after dinner is my family tradition until now.

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Mr Dario also stated that there are lots of stuffs around and on top of the TV, which is another noticeable point. The old-fashioned TVs were square-shaped which was totally different to the super thin ones nowadays. This change in technology changes the space as well as we can no longer see small things on top of TVs such as the remote control, the cigarette lighter or small animal toys.

During the conversation, the point when Mr Dario most engaged in the talk was when he mentioned his most memorable moment watching TV. Due to his intonation and expression, I can tell he was really impressed by witnessing an accident of a man stuck in a snowstorm occurring during the Olympics in New South Wales years ago. It took him around 12-14 hours to be rescued and treated and Mr Dario was so fluttering since somebody kept saying ‘He’ll be up now’ until he really appeared on the ground. This detail was unexpected as I used to think that people will stop broadcasting when any incident happens.

This conversation provides me with precious indications about experience with home TV as I think that technology developments contribute to changes how people consumed television in their house. The space itself may change or people may still sit in the same space but each use a different devices and do not have the same experience. I consider this is a topic that I and Mr Dario can discuss further because he used to talk to me about his problems adapting with new technologies and how his relationships with his kids have changed due to this.