A reflection on KONY 2012

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All it took was the arrangement of four letters and four numbers to create a sign that was to hijack all forms of social media, setting a benchmark for the new age participatory culture through challenging social and political ideologies on a global scale. This sign, as you may have all come to love or hate, is KONY 2012.

(Image Source: The Kony 2012 Is Here, Top News, 10/3/2012)

The KONY 2012 campaign has transitioned itself from merely the signifier to the signified, as the decoding of messages within the KONY documentary, the foundation for the KONY 2012 sign, have become a point in people’s lives where they then can identify change and this will often lead to decisions/ new ways of thinking/evolving. (Kligler-Vilenchik 2012)

Kim (2004) references David Morley’s Study of the Nationwide Audience (1980), which outlines three hypothetical positions a reader may occupy. The mainstream media has encouraged these readings through its various representations and reflections of the KONY 2012 phenomena Worldwide. Morley’s concept of the negotiated reading can be seen in accordance with the medias initial representation of the KONY operation in creating global awareness of Joseph Kony’s inhumane actions through establishing inquisitiveness and interest. Curiosity, in this instance, is the key, where the medias initial interpretation of KONY 2012 as a mysterious uprising encourages readers to not only accept the medias intended caution to the issue but to also modify this reading into a reflection of ones particular ideological views and opinions.

The dominant or hegemonic reading, detailed by Morley (1980), foresees an audience whom accepts the preferred reading into KONY 2012, this being the medias message for simply creating global awareness associated with social and political issues. In conforming to this dominant reading, those with a vested interest of the KONY crusade succeed in following Invisible Children’s owner Jason Russell’s mission to ‘Make Kony Famous’, where the social activist encourages citizens to “Watch the film. Sign the pledge. Join the revolution.”

This dominant reading into the global issue see’s the medias representation of the integral message, being the emphasis on individuals and communities have the capacity and influence to make the World a far more just place, through reblogging and sharing the KONY documentary to raise awareness.  Juxtaposed to this is the medias more skeptical portrayal of the viral campaign, perceiving the Invisible Children Organisations crusade as a fraud.

Readers of KONY 2012 have identified the campaign as hosting a neo-colonialist agenda, sparking debate as to where the proceeds of the mission are going, as Oysten (2012) mentions how last year the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This particular depiction of the viral KONY 2012 movement by the media harnesses what David Morley (1980) describes as an oppositional or counter hegemonic reading, encouraging readers of the global phenomena to reject the preferred pro Invisible Children stance just as the media has done on several occasions.

In keeping with both the media and the readers oppositional take on the issue, is the reporting of the campaign which utilizes a differed anti KONY stance, presented as a reflection of the detriment it has caused to Uganda’s social and economic instability. As presented in Global: Africa (2012) this reading notes just how reputation makers of KONY 2012 have attempted to taint with the lie that Uganda was still at conflict with the LRA. Despite Ugandan Ambassador Kamunanwire’s claim that the Ugandan community is free, safe and stable, the media continues to present to and encourage readers to indulge in this oppositional stance in an attempt to challenge individual perceptions within the modern mediated public sphere.

Through following the medias various perceptions and representations on the viral KONY 2012 movement, I have been able to distinguish and reflect upon just how differed readings can produce unique meanings of a significant issue. Steering away from Habermauss’s traditional definition of the public sphere, the 21st century embraces reality; the mediated public sphere of 2012 enabled by the diversification of media, where KONY 2012 has proved to set a benchmark for social media use on a global scale, enabling all citizens within the new age participatory culture to engage with and develop their own readings into the KONY matter in itself.

 

References

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KONY 2012: False Assumptions

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The words KONY 2012 have somewhat vanished into a state of non existence, in terms of the media, as what had once appeared to be an acute moral panic has become that of ‘old news’. Although, steering away from representations of the viral campaign as merely a pro or anti Kony stance, the media has recently begun documenting and reporting on the phenomena as a reflection of the instability of Uganda, “Considering the collateral damage it has done to Uganda’s reputation.” 

 The media, however, has falsely represented documentations of the viral campaigns movement, as Uganda’s Ambassador Perezi Kamunanwire mentions how over the last ten years, the number of tourist who visits Uganda has grown to over a million. This is clear proof that Uganda is a free, safe and stable country worthy of visiting and doing business with. In addition to this first hand account of Uganda’s stability, the #KonyisnotinUganda hash tag on social media site Twitter, was developed in attempts to emphasise that Kony is in fact absent from Uganda and has been for since 2006, where this can then bring one’s attention to the underlying questions imposed by Annika Neujahr:

  • Do these facts make the matter less urgent?
  • Do these arguments in any way invalidate the aim of the video?

 Whether the media has chosen to portray the phenomena as that of a detriment to the Ugandan community intentionally or unintentionally Uganda is not in conflict. Uganda is a modern, developing country which enjoys peace, stability and security, Ugandan President Mbabazi assured viewers, inviting anyone who doubts it to come and see for themselves, nevertheless the media continues to challenge ones perception of the country, alluding to the idea that Kony continues to cause outrage to the economy and society as “reputation makers of Kony 2012’ attempted to taint this with the lie that Uganda was still at conflict with LRA still within.

 Opening as a media outrage and transitioning into what Milton Allimadi describes as destructive propaganda, the KONY 2012 campaign has become that of a reflection of the moral panics destruction of the country Uganda, initiating and developing upon false assumptions in regards to the economic stability of the country as opposed to representing the campaign in a factual and objective manner.

References

BCM112 Reflection

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Throughout the course of the subject Convergent Media practices, as a budding media enthusiast and prosumer, I have been able to extend my learning within the participatory convergent culture through reflecting on issues and concepts associated with this environment within weekly blog posts.

Week nines blog post, ‘The habitual remix’, I feel has been one of my most successful posts as it reflected on the remix and mash-up culture, exploring Kirby Furgusons’ notion that “everything is a remix”, as the argument which I communicated within this post was that it’s merely human instinct to copy, with majority of content becoming a remix of what once was, to some extent, original content.

‘The rise of the citizen journalist’ was my post from week nine, which I feel provided a structured argument on the importance of citizen journalists and their significant contribution within participatory culture. This argument was supported through identifying the importance of citizen journalism in the 2005 London Bombings as mainstream media broadcasted these amateur accounts of the event, alike to the news broadcasts of the Creamfields Music Festivals incident which presented footage filmed from festival goers mobiles phones.

 The final post which I submitted was ‘Beware; the trolls are here’, which I have also deemed as one of my most well written posts as it not only explored the concepts addressed in week tens lecture, being that of Internet trolling and the underlying misogyny attached to this discriminatory behaviour, but it reflected upon the issue of anonymity in regards to where the line is and should be in relation to open or closed comments on online content.

 These three selected blog posts I feel, have successfully addressed significant components within convergent culture, as through evaluating previous blog posts these final submissions managed to demonstrated reflections rather than accounts of theory as my prior posts had done.

Beware; the ‘trolls’ are here

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I am almost certain that when reading the word ‘troll’ one will immediately jump to the pre conceived image of a gigantic ghastly monster. However, placing all preceding perceptions aside, I’m not talking about your traditional troll that lives under a bridge, I’m talking about something of a far more serious matter.

Internet trolling.

(Image Source: Bearman Cartoons 2012)

This malevolent practice is the anti social act of causing interpersonal conflict and shock-value controversy online, in which Vanessa Thorpe details how the trolls participating in these deeds feel they can express anything and everything as a result of merely hiding under a cloak of anonymity.

This concept in itself progresses into a debate;

  • Where is the benchmark between how open or closed online forums and comments should be?

In my opinion this benchmark has been surpassed, where, as stated by Stafford 2012, this anonymity just allows people to indulge in their worst tendencies, not only towards individuals but entire social groups, resulting in online forums, YouTube channels and blogs becoming bombarded by unnecessary hateful commentary.

Misogyny, being the hatred of women or the general dislike to the gender, has been described by lecturer Tanja Dreher as what has become a hot topic for thinking about the culture of online debate and interaction and what it means for gender issues, as this misogyny in itself has been exacerbated by the anonymous attributes of Internet trolling, enabling online users to comment anonymously on female columnists and bloggers posts and articles regardless of the emotional and psychological impact of the women. However, documentations of this abuse have been recently encouraged in which campaigns such as the #mencallmethings twitter phenomenon have enabled victims of this misogyny to not only voice their concerns but to fight back in an attempt to gain further recognition on the significant issue.

So there it is, in black and white, one’s brief individual stance on the vicious practice of misogyny, which sees an aggressive and abusive manipulation of women online as a result of Internet trolling. So, it only seems natural that I leave you all with just one simple message, Watch out for the trolls.

The Rise of the citizen journalist

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 Participatory culture. Now there’s a phrase for you, and whether you know it or not, you are more than likely contributing to this form of collective intelligence. Although criticised for its underlying subjective tone, I believe that it is these subjective and bias accounts which produce this user generated content so as to represent truth through a community of differed ideas and opinions.

An instance when participatory citizen journalism rose to the occasion was throughout the 2005 London Bombings, with assistance from our trusty friend; the mobile phone. First hand accounts of the traumatic attack were captured through mobile phones, collectively framing the initial shock and dismay as what these “pictures lacked in photogenic expertise they make up for in immediacy and poignancy”, in contrast to the mainstream medias use of images and reports which “gleaned from eyewitnesses using their mobile phones, but these were then subject to the usual editorial processes (or gate-keeping). However, later some ‘citizen journalists’, who had captured the images, put reports in the public sphere via personal blogs,” as mentioned by Janey Gordon, 2007.

 The recent incident at the ‘Creamfields’ music festival hit news lines last night, however this footage presented through the media was merely abstracted from ‘raving’ young citizen journalists themselves. Despite how or where you viewed the footage, one conclusion could be drawn; the man was a lunatic so to speak. This, although, is beside the point. The importance of this event highlighted just how participatory citizen journalism can lend itself to numerous perspectives, where at the festival individuals used their mobile phones alike to the London bombings, and filmed/photographed iconic footage from different angles and planes, which by no means can be considered professional/accurate accounts, although as a whole they contribute to citizen journalism’s unique authenticity.

So it only seems necessary that I leave you with two things; citizen journalistic extracts from the iconic London Bombings and the somewhat ‘less iconic’ incident at the Creamfields Music Festival, just as a demonstration of how I believe these amateur accounts in the scheme of things encourage participation and assist in producing a well rounded argument from both a professional and recreational outlook, as editor of the Brownsville Herald, Rachel Benavidez mentions, “it’s vital to engage a community that wants to have more ownership of their local media”.

(Source: Patty Hodapp, 2010)

 (Source: Mirror News, 2012)

(Quick Edit: 10/5/2012)

The ‘habitual’ remix

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 We’ve all encountered some form of remix in our lives, whether it being a mash-up of your favourite song, a movie, or a picture. Regardless, whether you know it or not, “Everything is a remix”. So it is here that my argument lies, we can all attempt to create creative original works, but as a matter of fact these new ideas merely evolve from previous ones; it’s human nature.

While I’m on the topic of human nature, I’m going to put my ‘scientific cap’ on for these next few sentences, tracing back 3.5 billion years ago to the single organism that all species were formulated from; LUCA, known as the Last Universal Common Ancestor. In the reproduction of LUCA, its genes proceeded into a cycle of copying, where Kirby Furguson’s ‘System Failure’ video, Part 4 of ‘Everything is a remix’, describes social evolution and the basic elements of creativity as

  • COPY
  • TRANSFORM
  • COMBINE

Now to put all that scientific jargon into five words, it’s human instinct to copy.

Participants nowadays can be referred to as produsers. And no, this is not a spelling error, produsers, as opposed to producers “come to a collaborative space first and foremost as users, but it is also easy for them to become engaged in content creation- they occupy a hybrid position as user and producer at the same time”, as argued by Axel Bruns. Again, it’s human instinct for us to become connected to content creation, wanting a part in this perpetual process.

I for one have fallen victim to this mash-up culture, on occasions remixing my favourite songs together in an act of boredom. Of course, these remixes were by no means professional such as those remixes, mash-ups and covers found on the remix.vg webpage. Although, having access to the tools to create music mash-ups, just like any individual with access to a computer, I was able to participate and experiment in this remix experience.

As the mash-up artist himself, Greg Gillis (‘Girl Talk’) mentions in Lawrence Lessigs’ ‘Remix’, “we’re living in this remix culture. This appropriation time where any grade-school kid has a copy of Photoshop and can download a picture of George Bush and manipulate his face how they want”. So it only seems necessary that I leave you with just that, images of George Bush that have been remixed in a somewhat humorous, yet amateur fashion, as an example of the ability of all participants to create and build upon content in this habitual cycle which we call the remix and mash-up culture.

 

(Source: Makefive)

(Source: My Life Is Brilliant)

(Quick Edit: 10/5/2012)

All hail the ‘nerds’

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Who ever said ‘nerd’ wasn’t cool has either been a little out of touch or merely hiding under a rock, as the irony of today’s’ modern society lies in the fact that ‘cool’ people are embracing nerdom in order to become ‘cooler’. Take Justin Timberlake for instance, whose charming good looks, if I say so myself, on many an occasion have been complimented by a pair of ‘nerd’ glasses, thus conforming to the entertainment industries acceptance of nerd culture as an act of ‘coolness’.

(Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 2012)

I for one am a huge advocate of this progression of nerd culture into the mainstream. This intellectual society has established variety and diversity within popular culture, where Grossman, 2005, states it is “as if the economic hegemony of the geek in the 1990’s, has somehow been converted into a cultural hegemony,” in which fan fiction, films and popular television series such as ‘The Big Bang Theory‘ and ‘Chuck’ have harnessed the rise of the esteemed nerd.

Speaking of television series, here is a name that will most likely ring a bell; Seth Cohen. Although, just incase you aren’t all OC fanatics like myself I’ll give you a quick run down. Basically, if you could describe the iconic OC character Seth Cohen in one word it would be ‘nerd’, though a more accurate description would be something along the lines of the ‘coolest’, most attractive nerd you could possibly imagine. Unalike to that of nerd Napoleon Dynamite, or on the opposite side of the spectrum the traditional male American character whose priorities consist of football, girls and more football, Seths’ irresistible   charm is derived from not only his looks and fashion but his innocent dorkiness and humour, capturing audiences hearts through his witty remarks and neurotic take on life. Seth, the comic obsessed nerd himself as seen in this clip, is just one example of a character apart of this transition from traditional marginalization of nerds to their welcoming acceptance within mainstream popular culture.

 (Source: Polaroid Picnic Tumblr)

The rise of the nerds is an ongoing process, an extremely successful process at that, which has lent itself to an increased interest and popularity in the geek community as “Nerds themselves have become more savvy, more self aware and more able to poke fun at themselves,” as mentioned by self confessed nerd Ethan Gilsdorf. I would  also think of myself as a self confessed nerd, there, I admitted it. But then again, in this day and age who isn’t? I believe that there is a little bit of ‘nerd’ in all of us; just give it an opportunity to take flight and I’m sure you will enjoy the ride.

(Quick Edit: 9/5/2012)