Misrepresentation and the Media

It seems that the topic of refugees and asylum seekers is one of the most disputed political issues in Australia. The media plays a huge role in the framing of asylum seekers particularly through dehumanising visual representations. As an Australian, how many times have you seen dramatic images in the media of asylum seekers arriving on Aussie shores by boat? Does this make you feel threatened? Should Australia be worried? I mean we are surrounded by ocean… that makes us more vulnerable to the hoards of refugees trying to bombard our golden shores right?


These exasperated claims can all be logically examined with simple facts and figures. I mean Australia receives approximately three per cent of the total asylum claims made in industrialised countries globally… three… per cent (UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2012). So why do a
good portion of Aussies seem to ‘flip out’ over the issue of ‘boat people’. The media shapes public opinion; it has the power to create moral panic over certain issues. Media representations play a crucial factor on the publics opinion of political issues, I mean the general publics knowledge of political issues is unavoidably and inherently mediated. A survey by McKay, Thomas, and Kneebone showed that ‘most respondents have limited accurate knowledge about asylum seeking issues, with knowledge highly dependent on media reporting’ (2012:128).

Images and visual representations in the media can hold a great power over viewers. They provide a snapshot of the situation being discussed; they tend to linger in the mind of the audience and can shape their emotional responses. So how are refugees being visually displayed in Australian media and to what extent does this affect this diaspora of refugees?

In the past decade the amount of media coverage on asylum seekers in Australia has experienced drastic rises and falls. This relates to events and catastrophes overseas as well as events domestically, like elections. I am sure most Australians can place a time when the issue of refugees and asylum seekers dominated national news. During these times the Australian audience was flooded with images and stories of ‘boat people’. These images usually featured large groups of asylum seekers arriving by boat. How does this representation influence our interpretation?

Australia Malaysia Refugees

Social-psychological studies have actually shown that close-up individual portraits are more likely  to evoke compassion in their viewers, while shots of large groups creates emotional distance. The  Australian mainstream media tends to be framing the issue of asylum seekers as less of a  humanitarian disaster and more of a security or border control threat (Jenni and Loewenstein,  (1997). This has created something of a moral panic within certain demographics of the Australian public, as they are misinformed or uneducated on the truth of the situation.

The power that the media can have over the response to certain issues (especially politically) can be demonstrated by the sympathetic reporting on Kosovo refugees in the late 90’s. In comparison, with the angle taken in many stories on asylum seekers today, Kosovar refugees were framed as the victims of terrible war crimes. Close up’s of women and children were often featured. This sparked a wave of donations and help from Western governments and humanitarian agencies.

refugees54_1jalica1_websRefugee camp fire in Podgorica

The Australian media often frames certain diasporas in a negative light. This could be the result of politics and media control. Whatever the reason many Australians are being misinformed and uneducated on this important topic. This problem now needs to be tackled from the bottom up, through citizen agency and through citizen media. Local and community media creation can be an engaging and active way to bring awareness to certain issues. If exercised properly it can also be a great way for those misrepresented diasporas to voice their stories and opinions. In a perfect world the mainstream media might actually tell the truth and report stories in a completely neutral light… but this world is far from perfect, so don’t believe everything you see on TV, ok?

Jenni, K.E. and Loewenstein, G. 1997 ‘Explaining the identifiable victim effect’, Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 14: 235–57.

Mares, P 2002 ‘Reporting Australia’s asylum seeker “crisis’, Australian Policy Online http://apo.org.au/commentary/reporting-australias-asylum-seeker-crisis

Salazar, J.F 2012 ‘Digital Stories and emerging citizens: media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney’ Journal of Community, Citizens and Third Sector Media and Communication, Issue 7





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China vs. Hollywood

Hollywood has always been dominant in terms of the Transnational Movie Industry, with American studios like Paramount, Fox and Warner Brothers conquering the international market. Alas, this could all be about to change. As Globalization provides new opportunities more competitors are stepping into the ring. Driven by the Internet, satellite networks, cable TV and DVD distribution, Asian production centres are continually drawing on cultural hybridity to meet the rising demand for glocalised content within globalized distribution networks. Through cultural hybridity and glocalisation, homogenising forces associated with cultural imperialism (like Hollywood) may potentially be overthrown. We are beginning to see the blurring of the modern and traditional, the high and low culture and the national with the global. Creating a new era of film.


Globalisation doesn’t just mean the expansion of larger film industries like Hollywood and Bollywood, but also potential for the expansion for less global industries. In 2009 the annual revenue of American films reached $29.9 billion, of which $10.6 billion was generated from the U.S, while $19.3 billion was generated from an international market. China makes up a predominant sector of the international market, and is the third largest film industry in the world. However is still struggling to penetrate global markets, especially those of Western countries.


China has abundant national resources for both domestic and global growth within its film industry. 5000 years of recorded history on events and ancient civilizations would surely inspire a whole lot of storylines. Many American movies have been inspired by Chinas rich culture and folklore.

Disney’s 1998 ‘Mulan’ is overloaded with Chinese images that satisfy a Western audiences stereotypical vision of Chinese culture. This film is an example of a movie that has taken or borrowed from Chinese culture, and then hybridized the content to suit a wider target audience. The film features calligraphy, The Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Chinese Gardens, Lanterns, chopsticks, Lion Dances and dumplings. Cultural translation also occurs in this film. This refers to the process in which film directors consider audiences living in different cultural backgrounds, and then Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 10.13.36 AMtransform the original value of the cultural text into a new form recognizable to a different audience. In this case Mulan has taken Asian values, such as filial piety and obedience, and transferred them into Westernized values like individualism and feminism. For example Mulan should be a compliant girl who obeys and wishes to obtain honour for her family. She is however an unruly teenager who disobeys her parents.

Cultural Hybridity is not only gaining momentum but also complexity. The motives behind film adaptations from certain cultures can range from marketing motives to authentic cultural representations. The progression of the transnational film industry is certainly going to be an interesting one to watch.

Schaefer, D, Karan, K 2010, ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’, Global Media and Communication, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 309-316.

Huiqun, L 2010, ‘Opportunities and challenges of globalization for the Chinese film industry’, Global Media and Communication, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 323 – 328.

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Walk the line: comedy and racial stereotypes

Representations of race in the media often consist of the same sort of rigid stereotypes that constitute gender portrayal. While gender is considered a touchy subject in the media it seems that the stereotyping of race can be even more harmful. In countries like Australia a wide demographic of the population bases their views and opinions of different ethnic groups from the medias representations. Racial stereotypes are often based on social myths that are perpetuated generationally from parents to their children. So for some, the media provides the only alternative set of cultural depictions. If these media depictions of ethnicity are riddled with narrow and unchallenged prejudices both children and adults are going to hold these stereotypes true.


The need for a more accurate portrayal of racial diversity should be a priority for political agendas, however as always changes can often take a great deal of time to filter down through the media. Many TV programmes and films depict lazy racial stereotypes. Some are criticised and some are overtly accepted usually by the dominant race, which when discussing prominent media (sorry to generalise) is usually Caucasian Westerners. For the media, discussing race can be like walking on eggshells, but for comedians (especially when discussing their own race) there seems to be a greater acceptance for light-hearted discussion. Could comedy be a great way to bring important issues regarding race into the public sphere of discussion? Or are the jokes still just playing off and perpetuating racial prejudices?

Stand-up comedy can be a great way to have an extended and direct conversation with an audience. Good comics can employ laughter to survive and understand pain, to explore obscenity, taboos and stereotypes. However when discussing issues like race and ethnicity there is a fine line between making fun of stereotypes and perpetuating them. Dave Chappelle’s comedy is almost centrally based around the discussion of black stereotypes in the U.S and the irrational fears that drive the willingness to believe such stereotypes. Dave Chappelle cleverly illustrates the relationship between black racial stereotypes and the people that believe and conceive them. This is a tough line to walk, for all comedians. Chappelle himself began to wonder wether his audiences were laughing at him rather than with him, and wether they were missing the larger points of his comedy, which he expressed when he walked off stage at one of his shows.

So if it’s all in good fun, what’s the big deal? Perhaps part of the problem comes from the creators? Assuming we live in a post-racial society where these stereotypes no longer have power. Or maybe the issue is with audiences? Their inability to separate between what is comedy and where there is perhaps a greater meaning… a greater discussion to be had. Maybe as audiences we need to ask a little more of mainstream entertainment… should we expect our humourists to challenge conventional ideas? Should we just expect offence as a by-product? Comedians have the means to challenge us, to make us think a little more about nonsense we willingly believe. I believe comedy has an important role to play in breaking down racial stereotypes, but it represents only a smaller part of the solution to disintegrate these perpetuated prejudices all too common in our society.


Duabe, M 2011 ‘Laughter in revolt: Race, ethnicity, and identity in the construction of stand-up comedy’ Udini, accessed May 8 2014 – http://udini.proquest.com/view/laughter-in-revolt-race-ethnicity-goid:305230275/

Levine, A 2012 ‘Racial Comedy and Dave Chappelle’ accessed May 6 2014 – http://predoc.org/docs/index-144688.html

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Representations of the female victim

Traditional media continues to play a crucial role in the way the world perceives women. Representations and scripts relating to gender in the media are complicated and while some distinguish them as realistic they don’t represent the world directly. There are many stereotypes and widely circulated ideas and assumptions about sex and gender within our society, however today I would like to focus on the representation of the female victim in the media.

I am sure everyone has heard of Law & Order: SVU. If you haven’t, it’s an American television show that centres on the investigators in the Special Victims Unit, who primarily work on cases related to sexual assault, rape and violence against women. With this in mind you’re probably thinking there is gonna be a whole lot of representations, scripts and stereotypes in this juicy media text. While this is partly true, it’s actually the lack of representation these female victims get that’s disturbing. We all know the storyline; masked stranger attacks woman at night while they are walking in the city. The victim is usually found dead, stripped naked, covered in bruises/gashes or horribly mutilated. We get some close up shots of said mutilated body in the morgue, some info on how the victim died… and that’s usually it in terms of her visual representation.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 14images












The investigators then piece together her life from odds and ends in her apartment and stories from her family and friends. As the investigators begin to track down the perpetrator (usually male) many significant details about his life come to surface. As for the female victim…  well she kind of just fades into the background.

The problem with this scenario is that a masked stranger in a dark alleyway doesn’t commit most sexual assaults. About 2/3rds of the assaults are committed by someone the victim or survivor knows (Trask 2014). It seems that a lot of television and films that feature rape follow the same script when referencing a sexual assault. This seems to be where the media is failing victims and survivors. The assault in question is usually a catalyst for another action, just a small piece in the plot. Of course I am making generalisations here and am mostly referring to your stereotypical American crime shows, but these representations of rape victims and survivors in the media are still prevalent.

If the effects of sexual assault on the victim were explored further in shows like Law and Order: SVU do you think it would make a difference? Sexual assault certainly attracts media attention, but is the way it’s being represented helping or hindering the case? Have a look at this new campaign against sexual assault that doesn’t feature any rape victims or survivors. Do you think this is a fresh perspective? Does this make you want to respond? Would you be more inclined to respond if it did feature the victim… or do you prefer Daniel Craig?





Trask, Ellen (2014) ‘Why Sexual Violence on “Law and Order” Represents No One’ feminspire 

NewsOne (2011) ‘Four Black Female Victims the Media Portrayed as Villains

Khan, Sameera and Phadke, Shilpa (2013). ‘Where Can We Have Some Fun?’. The Indian Express





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The generational transition

The future of journalism is a topic at the forefront of media related discussions. In March 2014 “New York Times” columnist David Carr and Bloomberg Media chairman Andrew Lack discussed how new technology is revitalising the media. Making it more interesting and engaging rather than less. It was refreshing to hear Carr and Lack optimistically discuss how digital technology is part of the media’s natural evolution. Generally speaking the reception towards some new media technologies and ‘millennials’ from older generations hasn’t been warm, but criticising the next step and the next wave of workers isn’t exactly unheard of…


Millennials (a.k.a. the Millennial Generation or Generation Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X. As the next generation begins to infiltrate and dominate the workforce there always seems to be some resistance from the previous generation, as can be expected. I believe some of the negativity surrounding the future of journalism has to do with this resistance (of course it may only be a small factor). In 1968 a Life cover story said 20-somethings would never understand making a living. In 1976 Tom Wolfe, for New York magazine, referred to the 70’s as the ‘Me’ Decade. While millennials have been titled ‘collaborative, determined, and a multitasking group’ a May 2013 Time article labelled them as ‘Generation Me’.


Bruce Tulgan, an expert on young people in the workplace, states that ‘media jobs are a good fit for millennials’. He notes that they have learned to think “inside the information environment” and are far more familiar with digital mediums than their predecessors. Millennials are entering the workforce at a time when the production of media is more prominent than ever before. Tulgan states that millennials have developed exceptional research and media production skills at a younger age, making them ideal journalists for new media models (i.e. Facebook and Google)The traditional media model, seemingly predominated by Generation X, still clings to the idea of periodical premium content. This is becoming more and more irrelevant with the immediacy of real time content. My optimistic view (I would like a media job someday please) is that while this transitional period may be tough on working millennials, the outcome could be a tech savvy and convergent communications industry primed for our strengths (fingers crossed).

Like Lack mentions in this video, old media and new media are old terms. The walls are coming down and changes are occurring… its all part of the medias ‘natural evolution’. With any revolution there is going to be resistance and there are going to be challenges. We have seen this before and we will see it again. I am certainly excited to witness and experience these changes for myself… c’mon millennials!

Do you think media millennials can shift traditional legacy media into a more dynamic and convergent future? Do you think millennials have the power to reboot an inherited world in decline? The campaign below aims to inspire millennials in the US to create a change for their future, does it inspire you?

References –

Forbes Magazine – http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2014/04/21/are-millennials-just-gen-x-with-hipper-clothes/

NYT’s David Carr on the Future of Journalism – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPlazqH0TdA






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Journalists answer and artists question

Aesthetic Journalism generally involves artistic practices used to investigate social, cultural and political circumstances. Artists, like journalists, oftenperception-plaatje-aangepast use tools of investigation, such as field research and surveys, to gain more information on their topic.  The end result of this research is then usually displayed in the art context, for example a documentary style video, graphic visuals or photography. An artist’s work often offers a grasp on reality, relying on the viewer’s receptivity. Aesthetics are the process in which we open our sensibilities to the diversity of the forms of nature and convert them into a tangible experience. It may sound confusing but for some it is just a natural response. Just think of all the times you have viewed art, more often than not it becomes more of a physical and sensory experience. You are more in touch with the way the work makes you feel. You can grasp fragments of represented truths and build upon them yourself. Engaging your own perceptions, producing your own actions and experiencing awareness to your impulses.

When you intake your daily digest of representation via TV and newspapers, do you feel connected to the news story? Does it evoke a sensory experience? Does it make you feel aware of your feelings towards the topic? Do you feel as if you get to build your own interpretive perspective? Maybe not… the current trend of event reporting is problematic for this very reason. There is no space for critical distance. The information is produced, distributed and absorbed. Mainstream journalism is almost stuck in a world of familiar narrative forms that continue to reoccur in the routine of daily news. Mainstream journalists are experiencing the responsibility to tell one truth from an individual point of view. So if journalism at large is a view of the world, of what happens within it and its representations, then aesthetics is rather a view of the view.

Flusser (2000) says we need to query not the way art and journalism transforms the world but the way they can transform the meaning of the world. Does creativity have the power to generate a space for communication where before there was none? For centuries art has had the ability to evoke discussion and validate topics that are deemed too uncomfortable or unacceptable for the news arena. Art doesn’t deliver us information like journalism rather it questions information. It does not replace the journalistic perspective with a new one, but rather extends the possibility of understanding. If artists continue to challenge the aesthetic view could they tempt mainstream journalism out of it’s repetitive routine, into a new approach?

Cramerotti, Alfredo, 2011, “What is Aesthetic Journalism”, Aesthetic Journalism: How to Inform Without Informing, Intellect, London

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Journalism’s Journey

Journalism is on a journey, and it seems to be sharing the path with more travellers than expected.

There are many terms used to describe contributions to online newspaper content. Jay Rosen (2006) describes these contributors as “the people formerly known as the audience”. Some call it “user generated content” others “citizen journalism”, while some like the term “produsage”, which highlights the combination of producing and consuming information (Bruns 2008; 2005).

Another term is “participatory journalism”. In today’s society, with the aid of new media platforms and compare1technologies, people inside and outside the newsroom are engaging more and more with each other. These people are participating. They’re creating online networks and multifaceted communities where a range of news can be observed, reported on, discussed and criticised.

 So what does this mean for institutional journalism? They are facing a serious challenge to their social function by an activity parallel to their own. Audience participation is redefining the journalistic culture, their values and their practices (Domingo et al 2008). How are the institutional journalists responding to this change?

 Gatekeeping is defined as “the process by which the vast array of potential news messages are winnowed, shaped, and prodded into those few that are actually transmitted by news media” (Shoemaker et al 2001). In a 2008 study titled ‘Participatory Journalism Practices In The Media And Beyond: An international comparative study of initiatives in online newspapers’ (Domingo et al 2008) the results suggested that institutional journalists and agencies were withholding their control over the content they released. The features these institutions would provide to let citizens produce the content themselves were mostly just invitations to submit audio-visual materials, story ideas, links to social networking sites and space for citizen blogs. Few of the online newspapers they looked at used tools for community building or encouraged participatory journalism.

It is now 2014, as journalism becomes more and more “participatory”, the volume of information to be filtered can become overwhelming for gatekeepers. Making it harder and harder to maintain control over it. If media agencies do not provide tools online for citizens to contribute, the citizen will just go elsewhere. To online communities designed for participation.

In the past few years ordinary people have captured and published, in words and images, stories of serious global
picture7 impact. Most of the time the audience has captured these  moments in real time, experiencing it first hand only moments  after it has happened. Terrorist attacks on the commuters of  Madrid and London, abuse of prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib  prison, the chaos surrounding elections in Iran and many  different natural disasters. They have carried on millions of  newsworthy conversations through discussion forums, comment  threads and blogs. Institutional journalism is right to feel  threatened. It will have to adapt alongside these monumental changes in communication technology, like it has done throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, if it wants to stay relevant and necessary to this complex and digitalising society.

Bruns, Axel (2005) Gatewatching: Collaborative online news production, New York: Peter Lang

Bruns, Axel (2008) Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and beyond: From production to Produsage, New York: Peter Lang

David Domingo, Thorsten Quandt, Ari Heinonen, Steve Paulussen, Jane B. Singer & Marina Vujnovic (2008) “Participatory Journalism Practices In The Media And Beyond” Journalism Practice, 2;3, 326-342

Rosen, Jay (2006) The People Formerly Known as the Audience, Press Think

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Public Sphere 2.0

The concept of the public sphere is certainly not a new one. In 1962 Jürgen Habermas released The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962), which discussed the rise and fall of the bourgeois public sphere in 18th century Europe (McGuigan 2005). The term public sphere is both dynamic and broad however it generally implies a spatial concept where meanings are articulated, distributed and negotiated. It is something of a social experience where public opinion can be formed and it is essentially accessible to ‘all’.

The public sphere is a very important tool within modern society. I mean it’s basically the key between media and democracy. However the public sphere is also subject to dramatic change, which makes it kind of hard to follow. In this digital age
online communication has certainly taken over Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 1.39.22 pmfrom coffeehouse discourse (Boeder 2005). The traditional media of radio, television and especially the press, used to be the main source for disseminating information about society (Berkowitz 2009). Now, with the rise of the digital age, comes a new space for public discussion, the Internet. Online communities and social networking have produced new spaces for information, debate and especially participation. This has meant a drastic change for traditional journalism. The media audience has gained more and more control over the information it was once hand-fed through specific and measured media channels (yum?).

One of the interesting aspects of this new online public sphere is the many-to-many communication it allows. The ‘info-sphere’, ‘blogosphere’ and ‘twittersphere’ appear to be ideal spaces for initiating public debate and social change. Both like-minded and oppositional individuals can use these spaces to exchange views, knowledge and their opinions (Iosifidis 2011). In theory these spaces are now where a public-minded rational consensus can be developed… but what happens when these consensuses are not so rational?

Not only can news content and audience feedback become blurred to create false information (Berkowitz) but also anybody can have their say. This can result in conspiracy theories (Missing Malaysian Flight M370), an increase in ‘entertaining’ media content and overall something of a pseudo public sphere (McGuigan 2005). The media audience now has access to whatever media content they want. Meaning they can stuff themselves to the brim with stories that are fascinating rather than real. For example, think about how much media coverage and online support Ellen’s famous selfie received. Around the same date this was happening to Ukraine. Now which did you hear more about?

Another important note to remember is that an ideal public sphere means access from ALL citizens… more than a quarter of the world still doesn’t have access to electricity. Which means an online public sphere predominantly reflects the narrow view of the developed world. Without electricity, the idea of participating in a global online public sphere is an unrealisable dream…

Berkowitz, Dan, 2009, “Journalism in the broader Mediascape,” Journalism, Vol. 10(3): 290-292

Iosifidis, Petros ‘The Public Sphere, Social Networks and Public Service Media’, Information, Communication and Society, 31 Jan 2011

McGuigan, Jim, 2005, The cultural public sphere, Cultural Studies, 8:4, pp. 427-443.

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