Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Seminar task 2 - On Popular Music

Quickly read Adorno's (1941) article 'On Popular Music' (links below). In no more than a few paragraphs, summarise his ideas on pop music, concentrating on key points such as 'standardisation', 'psuedo-individualisation' etc.

Adorno's key ideas on pop music are that there is  ‘A clear judgement concerning the relation of serious music to popular music can be arrived at only by strict attention to the fundamental characteristics of popular music: standardization,’ (Adorno, 1941, p.73) He suggests that there are two 'spheres' of music - popular and 'serious' and that popular is the inferior of the two, calling it predictable, structured and standardised. Popular music is for the working class and is mass produced (In today's society pop stars are manufactured and mass produced to give the public the same pre-digested rhythm).
If an aspect of a musical piece can be defined Adorno believes this to be 'stylised' and have repetitive structure. 
In society, humans strive to be deemed individual, not follow the crowd and if we as individuals believe ourselves to be a 'sheep' we tend to detach ourselves from objects to achieve higher social 'status'. We believe we are being individual by engaging with various strains in popular music (Pseudo-individualisation) ‘making them forget that what they listen to is already listened to for them, or ‘pre-digested’.’ (p.79).
In the third part of Adorno's writing it is apparent that he believes that the audience of popular culture have such pressurised, stressful lifestyles that popular music offers an escapism from reality. 'Listeners are distracted from the demands of reality by entertainment which does not demand attention either" and he deems this audience to not be able to understand and appreciate 'serious' music. 

Post a link to a YouTube pop video that, in your opinion, epitomises Adorno's sentiments. Explain why, trying to emphasise the links to the wider 'culture industry' in general.

I consider Rhianna to be the epitamy of standardisation at the moment, she is literally everywhere and we are subjected to the same predictable rhythms. All her songs (along with many other pop songs) follow the same structured pattern of intro, verse, chorus, verse etc... and it is very repetitive. However, songs of this tempo and style are very consistent with others for providing great escapes - especially on a night out  as we can just escape, have a bit of a dance which in itself is standardised as everyone really dances in the same rhythmical manner. 

Lecture 3 - "The Gaze"

Call of Duty allows you to choose 1st person or 3rd person perspective. Why?
1st - more life like, more intense - makes you feel you're actually in the game.
3rd - more cinematic, interactive movie. Harder to control other people in 3rd.

Why do we hunt?
What motivates us to watch hurt?

We control how much we engage with death and violence - we can make them less detailed - more abstract.

Psychoanalysis - analysis of the options and controls we choose in life.
Be the hunter or the hunted.

Key authors / theorists - Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Laura Murphy, Kaja Silverman.

Common misconceptions
  • It's a mish mash of psychology (behaviour) and psychitary (mental illness).
  • Although it is linked to the two - it's also a way of thinking that can be applied to all aspects of society, including art and design.
  • It's all about sex.
  • About how we treat and examine objects.
Laura Mulvey - Hollywood film is sexist in that it represents 'the gaze' as powerful and driven by males. 
Heroes typically are male and drive the plot.
Women in film exist as 'sexual' objects to be looked at.

Freud Theories of Pyschoanalysis 1
SCOPOPHILIA - the pleasure of looking at others bodies as objects. Emerges in childhood.

Freud Theories of Pyschoanalysis 2
NARCISSISTIC Identification - spectators identify with the male hero in narrative films.

Theories of Pyschoanalysis 3
Jacques Lacan - the mirror stage.
Projected notion of 'ideal ego' in image reflected.
Child's body less perfect than reflection.
Film - similarity with the mirror - produces fascination in the image that can itself, include a loss of ego. In our increasing indentification with a projected 'ego', our own sense of ego becomes lost.

Comic Book Guy (Simpsons) - narcissistic identification with comic book heroes highlights his loss of self ego. Film and art prey on our ability to identify with a projected 'ego'.

Contradiction in the two pleasurable structures of looking -
1. SCOPOPHILIA - sexual stimulation by sight - objectifying the actors.
2. NARCISSISTIC identification with the image seen.
Fantasy world - product of patriarchal realities.

Mulvey's theory

•Spectators look through eyes of the actors in the film
•We are able to follow ‘their’ gaze without feeling guilty
•Suture can be broken e.g., when an actor speaks out to us
•When broken, the audience are aware of their own gaze –
•Possibility then, to make the spectator feel guilty

SUTURE - point of View Gaze
•This form of ‘gaze’ invites us to be a part of the scene. We view through the eyes of a character.
•When ‘suture’ is broken, the viewer is aware of the power of their own gaze.

1.the spectator’s gaze – gaze of a viewer at an image
Most common form of gaze.
You looking at me.
Can also see you looking at others… 

2. intra-diegetic gaze – a gaze of one depicted person at another within the image
When I look around me now I don’t just see you looking at me. I also see you looking at others.
Degas: Le Viol (The Rape) 
This gaze is ‘intra-diegetic’. Character in the image that gazes at the subject (the young girl).
 May feel disgusted and upset about the image - don’t really feel any guilt; we are not the perpetrators of the assault/rape.
3. extra-diegetic gaze – this is the direct address to the viewer – the gaze of a person in an image looking out at us e.g. newsreaders.
Intra-diegetic gazes defer our guilt – someone else is hurting that person - enhances our guilt - we are complict.
Conclusions to take away:
•Different forms of ‘gaze’ evoke different structures of power;
•We can objectify (scopophilia) AND identify (narcissistic identification);
•Cinema, advertising, computer games thrive upon ‘contradiction’ [but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing!];
•Visual culture employs different forms of the gaze to evoke structures of patriarchy;
•Psychoanalysis seeks to evaluate and identify the architecture and symptoms of the gaze.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Lecture 2 - Critical Positions on the media and popular culture.

What is Culture?
From Raymond William (British philosopher) - one of the most complicated words in the English language. 3 ways starting to think about it:
  1. General process of intellectual / spiritual / aesthetic development in society at a particular time - "shared development".
  2. Way of life - e.g. the sports we engage in, the T.V. we watch etc.
  3. The works of intellectual and artistic significance - music, art etc. To signify practices to represent your world. 
Marx's concept of base and superstructure:
Society (all) are based around:
A base (core):
forces of production - materials, technology, tools, knolwedge etc.
Relations - employer / employee, master / slave, upper / lower class.

This brings about a superstructure.
Social institution - legal, political etc
Forms of consciousness - ideology.
E.g. art - formed out of interests of the ruling class - legitimises status in the world.

Society fudenmentally antagonistic - struggle between - oppressor and oppressed, rich and poor etc.

Base ----> determines content and form -----> superstructure ------> reflects form and legitimises ------>back round to base.

Culture emerges from base - culture justifies the base.

Myth of culture - ideas determined by the individual. When actually people's thinking about culture is determined by the society it is born into.

If we change the base we change the way people think about the world.
Easy to determine a shift in base - less easy in superstructure.
Marx - labels all culture as ideology.

Ideology - 1. ideas / belief system e.g. political party. Produced by strata (dominant class of society).
2, Mashing distortion or selection of ideas to reinforce power relations - through creation of false consciousness.

"Pyramid of Capitalist system"
At the bottom  - base - workers - oppressed - supporting the top.
Top - superstructure - emerges from base.
Top keeps the oppressed oppressed.

Williams - Popular - 4 Definitions.
  1. Well liked by many people.
  2. Inferior kinds of work.
  3. Work deliberately setting out to win favour with the people. 
  4. Culture actually made by the people themselves.
Inferior or residual culture.
Oppositions between:
Popular press vs. Quality press.
Popular cinema vs. Art cinema.
Popular entertainment vs. Arty entertainment (documentaries etc).

Graffiti - made by the people for the people.
By Banksy - does this now become high culture when put into a gallery - into 'high society'?

Labels of popular culture involve some kind of value / political judgement - revolves around class and identity.

Evolution of cultural studies:
Popular culture - can trace development back to early modernity.
Birth of industrilasation - clear line / divisions of classes.
Become separated - inetellectually / spiritually. Culture becomes a status symbol. Popular culture emerges to represent to new class.

People start o become anxious about what the new culture will have upon the high elitist culture.

Arnold (1867) 'Culture and Anarchy'.
'Diseased spirit' (working class) - possibility of a social revolution. (Worried people).

The uncultured should strive to become cultures and not set their own instead.

Leavisim - F.R. Leavis & Q.D. Leavis. - extension of Arnoldism.
"20th century - decline in quality in culture - becomes standardised, shattered - the working class have a voice because of shear growth of their 'population'.

Leavism - attack on the effects of popular culture as opposed to elite culture.

Popular culture offers addictive forms of distraction and compensation.
Threat to dominence of elite class.
Frankfurt school - critical theory - group of thinkers.
Combines Marx ideas and pshycoanalysis.
They explore culture as a product of the base and how it pshycologically effects people.

Main people:
  • Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Lowenthal.
Adorno - reinterprets Marx for 20th century - "late capitalism". 
"All mass culture is identical - comes from production line."

Argues that people who engage with popular culture conform to the interests of the elite. Meaningless of popular culture reinforces the elite.

Starts to stop people thinking (theoretically) - e.g. a film - we know the plot before it pans out - imprinted.

Marcuse - Popular culture - affirmative culture - not independent - locks you into the Status Quo.
Maintains social order.

All mass culture teaches intellectual / emotional responses to the world - becomes a way of life - illusion that this is better and we don't change.

Products of contemporary culture - affirmative culture - Big Brother, X Factor, etc.

Qualities of authentic culture:
  • Real
  • European
  • Multi - dimensional
  • Acute consumption
  • Individual Creation
  • Imagination
  • Negation
  • Autonomous
Independent of system born into.
Important to strive to this (instead of the mass produced popular culture).

Adorne on Popular music:
  • Standardisation
  • Social cement
  • Produces passivity through a rhythmic and emotional adjustment - 2 effects on audience - self regulate - obidient to a rhythm. Rhythm to explotation - ordered and structured dancing. 
We use music as a sentimental escape from the horrors of the world instead of trying to go out there and change it.

Walter Benjamin 1936 - The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction - idea of mass produced and the effects of what was thought of as high culture.

Idea of mass produced and new technology - new development - changing the direction of culture.

Possibilities of challenging high culture - concept - aura - in modern, mass produced age, mass capitalism - aura removed and becomes less important.

E.g. Mona Lisa - constantly told it is of high, social importance.
Now it's printed everywhere - challenges the authority and becomes less important, thus aura starts to become removed.

Democractic - attack on the old regime.
Aura - broken down or removed.

Working class can shape culture - make their own meanings.

Allows people to pick and select their way through life - create own path, choose own identity.

Conclusion -
Attitudes of civilised culture emerges from working class - worries elitists - working class threaten cultural standards.
Frankfurt school - see threat but have a different view - they see it as maintaining social order, depoliticises the working class.
Normative value judgements on popular culture - disguises social interests.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Blog task one - Panopticism

Choose an example of one aspect of contemporary culture that is, in your opinion, panoptic. Write an explanation of this, in approximately 200-300 words, employing key Foucauldian language, such as 'Docile Bodies' or 'self-regulation, and using not less than 5 quotes from the text 'Panopticism' in Thomas, J. (2000) 'Reading Images', NY, Palgrave McMillan.

There can't be a much bigger and modern example of Panopticism than Facebook.  "A state of conscious and permanent visibility" makes us continuously self regulate. Users regularly get caught on camera with unflattering poses / intoxicated or pictures we just don't like so people will quickly de-tag to make themselves appear more socially normal and acceptable. We are aware we can be monitored at anytime but unaware of who it is at any given time: “He is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information” 
"Regulation into even the smallest of details" is something a user always considers - whether or not they are sharing too much information with the public and regulating what they wish to be common knowledge.
We have become a nation of 'docile bodies' and it seems to be becoming an instilled human concept now (especially here in British society) that we are continously watched and never want to be caught in compromising situations although we enjoy seeing it of others "inscribing the power of regulation in which they simultaneously plays both roles". People 'spying' or viewing profiles hold the power of both the observer and the observed and we are seeing that society is becoming self-regulated. We don't want to be seen to be bad mouthing anyone as it has a way of getting back to the source so we always have to consider how we behave online as someone somewhere is always watching  'subjected to a field of visibility, and who know it, assume responsibility for the constraints of power', people talk and I think the saying 'walls have ears' should be updated to 'walls have eyes' as you never know who's keeping an eye on you. It is rather worrying - why are people watching me? What information are they obtaining from me? What do they do with the data / information they 'collect' from people and why? 

'Panopticism' in Thomas, J. (2000) 'Reading Images', NY, Palgrave McMillan.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Lecture 1 "surveillance and society".

Key words - Panopticism, Power, Docile bodies, Foucault, Self regimented, Disciplinary society.

Panopticon - metaphor for society surveillance.

Foucault (1926 - 1984) "Madness and civilisation" - idea of madness an how it has emerged throughout history.
Madness accepted in society - late 1600's - "The great confinement" happens - becomes a social requirement to work. People deemed socially unproductive or abnormal - need to be useful to society - locked away - the mad, criminals, tramps, pregnant single women, lazy - put into confinement to improve the 'moral fibre' of society. Put into correctional facilities - make them work and correct idleness.
"Deviants" begin to corrupt each other - the mad corrupt the sane etc - begins a degeneration.

The birth of the Asylum - different technique to the house of correction in order to control the mad - treated like children - rewarded for the good, 'punished' for the bad. There's a shift now from psychical control (putting to work) to mental control.
The emergence of new forms of knowledge and authority - can judge what is 'normal' and legitimise practices of hospitals, doctors, psychiatrists to deem what is normal.
Gives these specialists 'superhuman' powers to control society.
Society starts to internalise responsibility - conform to what is expected as 'normal'.

Early methods of control in society - 'Pillary' - deviants paraded in front of town - visible humiliation - the deviant is judged by society.

Disciplinary society and Disciplinary Power (Foucault)
A 'technology' to keep us under surveillance - to control us and improve society - make people productive and responsible.

Panopticon Design - 1971 - round building - windows from outside.

Panopticon examples.

Middle - central watch tower - can see all prisoners.
Interesting effects - opposite of dungeon or house of correction - constantly can be seen - 'not forgotten' like before.
"Internalises" in the individual the conscious state that he is always being watched. It scared the inmates - didn't step out of line - self regulate their behaviour - perfect system if control. Seen now as psychological torture.

 Example of the effects...

Advantages of the Panopticon - perfect model for scrutinising people - almost like a lab to monitor human performance. Constant visibility - efficient and economical.
"Experiment on prisoners" - reforms the prisoners, help treat patients, instruct school children / students, helps confine, study the insane, puts idlers / beggars to work.

We change behaviour to what we expect 'the invisible, watching body' wants us to behave like.
Open plan offices, modern bars, studios etc all examples of panopticism - always watched.
The idea of being recorded in our modern society, causes us to change - due to the anxiety of being recorded  
My thought: I think this is totally instilled in us now - particularly the younger generations as we are unconsciously always aware that we are being videoed on CCTV and it is almost like human instinct to us now and it's just 'normal' although slightly scary and intimidating.

'Relationship between power, knowledge and the body"
Power relations have an immediate hold upon the body - invest it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to emit signs, perform ceremonies. (Focualt).
The physical effect of a mental process.

Disciplinary society = 'docile bodies' - self monitoring, easily controllable, does what "YOU" the surveyor wants it to do.
e.g. Women dress how men want them to dress - to impress.
Disciplinary techniques - e,g, the gym - making ourselves fit / healthy for society - deemed fit to work - we are inundated with messages about smoking, drinking etc - messages so we hopefully don't become ill, therefore can't work and are deemed useless to society.
This essentially was what the Nazi 'project' was intending to do - produce a fit/healthy society.
T.V. - a classic way of producing docility - we are instructed, controlled, become passive.

Foucault on power:
Not a 'top down' model like Marxism. Power is not a thing, it is a relation between different individuals / groups. Power relies on there being the capacity for power to be resisted.
"Where there is power, there is resistance."

Facebook - the new (modern day) surveillance. Spying on friends, performing for the public - we delete inappropriate photos, tags etc if we see that our behaviour / appearance is not acceptable / normal.

Bruce Nauman
'Video Corridor Pieces' 1960's - Attitude shifts to that of self consciousness when you reach the screen at the bottom showing the back of your head and you realise you're being watched and you feel you need to adapt to a behaviour 'acceptable' in the art gallery.

Chris Burden "Samson" 1985.
Two pillars and a crack - pushes harder on the walls when people enter the room - like it is watching people enter and exit.
"The 100-ton jack pushes two large timbers against the bearing walls of the museum. Each visitor to the museum must pass through the turnstile in order to see the exhibition. Each input on the turnstile ever so slightly expands the jack, and ultimately if enough people visit the exhibition, SAMSON could theoretically destroy the building.”
 Key things to take from the lecture
  • Foucault's ideas.
  • Panopticism - form of modern discipline. 
  • Techniques of the body. 
  • Docile body.
Notes on today:
Found this to be an interesting lecture - never realised there was so much depth into surveillance - the ideas behind it and the reasons for doing it.The thoughts presented by Foucault and that of the correctional facilities. It's a really interesting human behaviour in itself - why was there ever that need pushed onto society for people to work, for people to be normal, for people to be watched? And, who decides on who are the watchers? It's quite a scary thought to think that if I am caught on CCTV hundreds of times a day, then why are people watching me? What information are they obtaining from me? What do they do with the data / information they 'collect' from people and why?
I can see the good in watching people, on the basis that the government are keeping us 'safe' and able to track individuals such as terrorists, but I kind of want a balance between what we have and a communistic society - what I mean by that is, yeah fair enough keep me safe in my own country and what have you, but I would like to have a say on who it is - it's a bit panicking thinking a random 'odd' person might be watching and hatching a crazy plan...
Maybe that went a bit far, but I wanted to share my thoughts on what I heard today. 

Level 5