assignments other worlds Poor Vago

Agent 808 Alternate Reality

Agent 808 first made a stop in Portland to get some top secret new gadgets from Billionaire Paul Allen before heading to Sacramento to meet with the Governator about his new assignment. The airlines are no longer considered a viable alternative to travel since the 911 disasters and there are moves afoot to reinvigorate rail and make it the main means of transport for the next several centuries. Get ready for some radical changes in rail travel.
And from the true files:

Former KGB analyst Igor Panarin, dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s academy for future diplomats, has predicted that the U.S. will fall apart in 2010.
He based the forecast on classified data supplied to him by FAPSI analysts, he says. He predicts that economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the U.S. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the union. Social unrest up to and including a civil war will follow. The U.S. will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in.
California will form the nucleus of what he calls “The Californian Republic,” and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of “The Texas Republic,” a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an “Atlantic America” that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls “The Central North American Republic.” Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.

Agents of TOIL are setting traps every step of the way to keep this mission from being accomplished, but there is no stopping Agent 808.

assignments The Fantastic Depression

The Auto Industry Bailout, The Media, Obama, and Racism

(Note: This is a paper I wrote back in November, it may provide an interesting context to the bailout of the U.S. Auto Industry. Incidentally, if I ever buy another American vehicle, it will be a Ford. This is mainly because of their polite decline of the bailout.)

When a problem arises within a society, how does the general public become informed about the problem? Does the average citizen form their views about issues from within a vacuum based upon their individual analysis and experience? Or are the views of a population doled out in sound bites and given to them part and parcel?
In this paper, I will analyze one conflict that is occurring within the United States today. I will analyze it based on some of the coverage it has received in the past two weeks. The issue I am looking at is one facet of the financial meltdown that has recently started in the United States. It would be interesting to examine the entire crisis, from the policies that allowed it to happen to the ‘finger in the dyke’ handling that the United States and other world governments are utilizing to address this deeply seated and global issue, that is not the intent of this paper, nor does it fall within the purview of my stated goal above. Instead, I will be looking at the collapse of the American motor vehicle industry in Detroit, the probable effects, the proposed solutions, and the various ways that business and government leaders are proposing that this imminent disaster be solved.
First, I will paint the picture of what is happening within the auto industry. Second, I will look at how Reuters, Bloomberg, The New York Times, CNN, and The Denver Post have portrayed the facts. Finally, I will examine the evidence to see if the public is being given ‘nothing but the facts’ or if they are being told how to think about this economic conflict by the various news agencies. Along the way, I will hopefully point out some of the important assumptions that are being made by the news media and by the reading public.

Anthropology assignments Environment Existensis

True Social Justice as Societal Healer

True justice involves ‘removing social domination’ as well as removing the domination of nature. It is this ethic of domination which has led to the ills of our society and the degradation of our environment. By creating true justice, it is likely that we would also restore the imbalanced natural state of our world to eco-sanity.
Justice is possible but it requires giving equal weight to humans, animals, plants, and entire ecosystems when considering whether something is good or not. The Ok Tedi mine in PNG affected the environment directly but the environment was also damaged through altering the lives of those who were the traditional land-owners and those who came to live on the land in order to construct and work in the mine. These changes even took place outside of the immediate area of the mine when toxic substances flowed downstream in the Fly River. If justice had been considered from the beginning for those on the land, those downstream, environments in all affected areas, and wildlife, significantly different actions would have been taken and as a result, the damage would not have been as intense as it was. As Barbara Rose Johnston points out human rights violations often follow environmental degradation. By utilizing resources sustainably we can raise the quality of all life and fulfill the basic needs of those reliant upon a particular locale instead of destroying life-sustaining resources.
Our current system of valuing nature is unsustainable and thus eco-insane. ‘Industrial development has brought neither social justice nor a healthy environment to all people. By changing the way that we think and act towards non-human nature we can move from eco-insanity of control and domination to the ecosanity of cooperation and sustainability. “Under capitalism the earth is bought and sold as private property” and yet does the earth belong to these ‘owners’ more than to the plants that grow upon it or the creatures that rely upon it for life. Certainly not. The work of Murray Bookchin leads one to believe that these ecological issues will ultimately cause the current capitalist system to self-destroy.
Human populations are just as reliant upon environment as they are upon positive social interaction with one another. In order to have world peace, we must ensure that all human populations have fresh water, enough food, shelter from the elements, and clean air. These necessities are reliant upon having a healthy ecosystem, in the past, wars may have been fought over power, but in the future, power will certainly be reliant upon the availability of these resources. By ensuring that there is an abundant ‘common’ we are taking positive steps towards peaceful social relationships between all people . Privatization of these necessities is not only unjust, it is unhealthy for the entire planet. One example of this is seen in the destruction of Thailand and exploitation of the people there happening concurrently .
By embracing true justice the entire world will benefit. A great example of this is in regards to global warming. The fact that Tuvalu might be completely destroyed by the rising oceans as a result of global warming is not the fault of the Tuvaluans, if anything it is the fault of the entire human population and thus the Tuvaluans should not be forced to endure the consequences while the rest of the world does not shoulder the burden of providing relief, assistance, and justice to them. Certainly it is not justice that the impoverished people of the world suffer the worst consequences of climate change. By embracing an ethic of justice, we increase the ability of all people to weather future hazards whether they are drought, flood, natural or manmade disasters.
Eco-sanity involves not only respecting and protecting the environment, but also respecting and protecting one another and valuing all human beings as much as we value ourselves. An example is when farmers are obligated to work for wealthy land owners because they don’t have the justice which would allow them to own and work their own land. This lack of justice leads to relationships of inequality, exploitation of people, and ultimately of the land. As Townsend states, “It is rarely possible to understand fully the relationship between humans and some other species without getting into questions of power and inequality” Merchant offers a means of escaping from this by positing a science of interrelated organisms and environment within an ‘ecological socialist society’
One part of ecosanity is respecting all human beings regardless of class, religion, sex, or ethnicity. Can true justice can restore eco-sanity? The answer is simple. Yes. However, it is more complex, for the eco-insanity of the present will inevitably lead to the destruction of an unjust system, even if it takes all of humanity out to the garbage with the system that has led to so much injustice and enviro-devastation.

Anthropology assignments Existensis

How mass media shapes personal identity.

A huge part of being a human being is the ability to ask one’s self ‘Who am I?’ Certainly, we cannot know for certain that all creatures don’t ask themselves the same question, but since, as human beings, we are able to communicate the thoughts that we have within ourselves to other human beings outside of ourselves, we can be certain that a part of being human is this desire to understand who we are. While, on the surface, ‘Who am I?’ may seem to be a simple question that can be answered with a name, a profession, or a nationality; it is, in fact, a much more profound question that generates more questions than it does answers. The questions follow on the heels of one another and after the simple answers we might at first be tempted to give. These questions can start with our original answers. Why is my name …? Why am I a certain profession? How did I come to think of this profession, and thus myself, in this way? Why do I consider myself a member of this nation, state, or organization and how did I learn to think of it in this manner? These and further questions lead, inevitably to the great questions of philosophy. The questions that do not have solid and verifiable answers. Questions such as ‘Why am I here?’ ‘Where was I before I was born?’ ‘Where will I go when I die?’ and ‘Am I a part of my body or is my body simply something I am attached to at the moment?’
While it is beyond the scope of this paper (or arguably any paper) to address the deepest of these questions, I believe that it is possible to address the surface questions of how we form our identity and where the information our identities are built with comes from. Our identities are formed by the people that surround us at any point in our lives. Parents and siblings, teachers and classmates, colleagues and friends; all of these relationships aid in the building of our sense of self. These are the direct human contacts that help us determine our likes and dislikes, our passions and joys, and our endeavors towards future selves that we have, as yet, to become. Within and surrounding nearly all of these relationships, however, is another force that shapes us. It is a force which is visible and invisible, pervasive and consuming, and with us, in this modern world, from the day we are born until the day we die. This force is that of the mass media. Mass media is present during our entire waking lives in the form of books, film, music, newspapers, art, and advertisements. The influence of mass media shapes our concepts of who we are, what is important to us, and how we live our lives.
Michael Foucault addresses this influence in Text, Discourse, and Ideology.

…in every society the production of discourse is at once controlled, selected, organized, and redistributed by a certain number of procedures whose role is to ward off its powers and dangers, to gain mastery over its chance events, to evade its ponderous, formidable materiality. (Foucault, p. 50).

Foucault goes on to talk about how by creating the way we think about things, our society is able to actually limit the things we think about. Foucault refers to this as principles of exclusion within discourse. An example might be that one thinks of oneself as an ‘American’ and not a ‘North American’ and thus in the individuals thinking, the identities of both Mexican and Canadian are excluded by the simple exclusion of the word ‘North’. Thus we reach one of the many ways that the mass media is able to shape the individual identity, through the conditioning of thoughts towards thinking in a certain way. Any message which is able to achieve mass media is controlled and selected by the author(s), is arranged in a way that the author(s) feel describes their worldview (or more insidiously, arranged how they want others to view the world), and is then distributed within the population that either 1) shares that world view or 2) is likely to share that worldview in the future.
Manuel Castells in The Power of Identity provides specific examples of how the mass media shapes the individual identity. Castells looks at modern social movements as diverse as militias in the United States, Japanese doomsday cults, Al Qaeda , and WTO protestors and shows how all of these movements were able to spread and attract followers, not because of the inherent message of the groups, but more importantly because of the message in the media and how it came to be accepted as a truth in the societies represented and thus aided in the formation of the identity of individuals through mass media outlets such as Rush Limbaugh, al-Jazeera, Indy Media, and even the nightly news. Castells sums this up neatly:

…the actual conspiracy with no names (or multiple names) and with no organization (or hundreds of them) flows in the information networks, feeding paranoia, connecting anger, and maybe spilling blood. (Castells. p. 95)

Not all of the identity formed by the mass media is negative however. Purnima Mankekar shows how television in India helped to shape and empower the images of womanhood among those who watched serials on television. Mankekar demonstrates that mass media is capable of not only fostering domination of the individual but also able to bring about resistance to domination. Indian women who had a preconceived notion of their identity and watched the notions of womanhood within India on television programs reshaped their views on what it is to be a woman in India based on the message transmitted in the mass media and as a result have begun to redefine what it is to be a woman in modern India.
Jayhasinjy Jhala goes even further by examining the effects of films intended for a western audience when viewed by an Indian audience. The ethnographic films are documentaries about Yanaomamo culture that have taken place with the advent of television and mass media within that culture. Jhala and his wife showed films made for Western audiences to groups of Indian nationals and got very different reactions to the films than from Western audiences. The Indian audiences had not had the same messages broadcast to them in the building of identity as those of the West and thus had a very different reaction to the films. While this study did not necessarily demonstrate the effects of the films upon the identity of the Indian audiences, certainly they demonstrate the differences in national character that local mass media have in the way that individuals view the world in front of them.
This is important to consider because in our vast world media culture, a message that is intended for one audience often has very different reception by an audience that has constructed its identity from a different set of cultural markers. Take for example the typical action film in which the hero kills his enemies in overwhelming shows of firepower and yet to the western audience remains sympathetic. To a Western audience, the hero is justified because his innate character are understood within the tropes and markers of that society. When the same film is shown to an audience that has been conditioned by different cultural influences, the overall meaning of the film and the sympathies of the audience are often completely different.
In The Tongan Tradition of Going to the Movies, Elizabeth Hahn, looks at the very different way in which citizens of Tonga encounter western media and the effects that these differences create in the identity of the viewer as opposed to the effects which influence the identity of a viewer from the West. The Tongan experience of the cinema is a much less restrained experience than that of going to the movies in a Western country. Westerners are often annoyed by the shouts and applause that come from the audience. This difference is born of the different cultural practices of each culture. In a traditional Tongan performance, the viewer is led through the event by a narrator who personalizes the experience for the viewer while in the West, the viewer is expected to detach from the experience. Thus, it can be argued that watching a typical film for someone from the West has little to do with the identity of the individual, those in Tonga are much more likely to leave a film feeling changed by the event. A Tongan viewing may, in fact, have more to do with the identity of the individual than with the story of the film itself. This is a result of the traditional culture of the place more than differences spread through mass culture, but may, in the course of time, have a greater effect upon shaping the future Tongan identity than that of the Western viewer.
Mass media of course has become much more than just film, television, and the printed word in the past few decades. Today the mass media is also interactive because of the advent of the internet. The internet has enabled people to find communities that fit their interests and thus has made it possible for an entirely new sort of identity to be possible across the world. As an example, a person who is drawn to an obscure hobby such as collecting pencils that have the erasers chewed off, no longer has to exist in isolation. It is probable that there are more than a few such collectors in the world and that at least one of them (and probably more) are on the internet. As a result, the chewed top pencil collector can find those with similar interests and perhaps will discover that he or she shares more than a single interest in this community. The chewed off pencil community may have bulletin boards, blogs, newsgroups, or even annual get togethers. Because of the collaborative nature of the internet, such collectors will be able to form a more concrete identity within a community of such like minded individuals. The same is, of course, true for those interested in more common pursuits.
Tom Boellstoroff documents one such avenue for the creation of identity through online mass media in his Coming of Age in Second Life. Second Life is an online world where participants can create alter egos with avatars, interests, and even real world incomes. Boellstoroff did traditional anthropological fieldwork in the virtual world of Second Life. Second Life, like all forms of human interaction, creates unique forms and means of shaping the human identity.

While some see virtual worlds as marking the emergence of the post-human, through terms like homo cyber I argue that the forms of selfhood and sociality characterizing virtual worlds are profoundly human…it is in being virtual that we are human. Virtual worlds reconfigure selfhood and sociality, but this is only possible because they rework the virtuality that characterizes human beings in the actual world. (Boellsteroff 2008: 29)

Thus, we see yet another way that the inner self of the human being can be shaped by the social world of human society, even when there are no humans physically present. This would seem to answer the question as to whether the sense of self is contained within the body or the body is separate from the self. In the case of virtual worlds, the body is not present and yet the self is.
This idea though, may not be as new as the technology that creates it. Some writers have theorized that all forms of mass media are similar to Second Life in that the self that is consuming the media is able to pick and choose from among different programs, magazines, and films and thus is actually not having the sense of self created by mass media, but using mass media to nurture an already formed sense of self. Not everyone agrees with these ideas though. Many , believe that mass media tends to encourage some forms of self identity while discouraging others. David Morley argues in The Construction of the Viewer that

…the celebration of audience creativity and pleasure can all too easily collude with a system of media power which actually excludes or marginalizes most alternative or oppositional voices or perspectives.
(Morley, p. 14)

Morley’s point is well made. After all, many forms of mass media today are generally controlled by business and government. Business wants to increase profits while government wants to encourage behavior that provides more control. With these goals in mind, what is it that mass media is encouraging and discouraging in its consumers?
In looking at the mass media today, one should look critically. What are those in control of mass media trying to make us believe about ourselves? When I ask myself ‘Who am I?’, how much of the answer comes from within me and how much has come from sources outside of me? Who benefits from the conception of self that is being taught, pushed, forced upon each of us through the mass media? Are we being accidentally shaped into something different from who we are by being an unintended audience? Are we developing new ideas or just regurgitating the ideas that have been fed to us through print, video, and digital media?
Mass media plays a huge role in the development of the self in the world of today. We are exposed to ideas, people, places, and communities that can cause us to bloom or, in many cases, cause us to hide who we really are. The sense of self is yours and yours alone. No one can tell you who you are or answer any of the profound questions for you. No one except for your self.

Anthropology assignments Environment

Is Human Nature Anti-Nature?

Humans are as much a part of nature as any other species on the planet and while it is permissible to talk about the impact that human populations and culture have had on the planet, the idea that human nature is inherently anti-nature does not fit with the facts.
Indigenous people have managed forests for a long time. (Townsend 2009:33) In addition to the examples given by Patricia Townsend about how human beings have successfully managed forests and promoted nature, there are plenty of other examples where human culture and thus human nature have not only promoted nature, but protected it. One such example is that of the Mbuti Pygmies as related by Colin Turnbull, the Mubuti’s society and religion are rooted in nature (Turnbull: 1961). Through inherent biodiversity cultivation, many peoples have preserved nature despite the presence of significant human populations. A more recent example of the inherent desire of human nature to protect and preserve nature is the Declaration of Belem in 1988. This is an example of human nature being pro-nature.
Human cultures are intimately related to the physical and biological environments in which they occur. If one is to argue that human nature is anti-nature, than one must argue by furthering this reasoning that human nature is anti-human. The reason for this leap forward in the argument can be seen by how closely humans must rely on the ecosystems in which they live. Consider the Indigenous adaptation to Rio Negro in the Amazon consisting of mixed subsistence, diversity, etnoecological practices and ethnoconservation methods (classnotes 9/26). Like the Shoshonean and Columbia River Indians (Townsend 2009:10-19), humans throughout the world have molded their cultures to preserve, nurture, and protect their natural environments.
Cultural ecology is about the relationship between human culture and nature (Townsend 2009:11). According to Leslie E. Sponsel, cultural ecology is an analysis of how culture influences the interactions between a human population and the ecosystems in which they reside (Sponsel 2001: 395-397). This is not always a positive impact.
Some human behavior and culture is maladaptive and thus anti-nature. In the same study mentioned above, Sponsel brings us to the conclusion that the net impact of human populations is to reduce biodiversity. This can be clean clearly in the “American preoccupation with manicured front lawns” and the massive decline in Northern Cod through overfishing. (Townsend 2009:14-15) Despite these examples of humans having an anti-nature impact, if human beings were truly anti-nature, our species would certainly have perished long ago.
The health of human populations depends upon the health of the ecosystem they live in. In the process of change as human populations grow, environments mature, and history runs its course, we, as humans, depend on the health of our environment. If the environment is not well we lose the plants we need for medicine, we encourage the emergence of diseases such as Ebola and the black plague, and…we starve (Townsend 2009:30-31). To claim that human nature is anti-nature is actually a form of environmental racism much like that of Kent Redford (Redford 1991: 46-48) who claims that indigenous cultures offer no models for sustainability and that all humans have an impact on the environment. The truth is, all life has an impact on the environment. That is nature, no anti about it.

Anthropology assignments Existensis

A Brief History of the Mass Media

The history of mass media is long and complex. It stretches back beyond the dawns of recorded history to the people that figured out that they could reach a larger audience through painting a picture on a cave wall than just by telling the story to whatever group happened to be present. While these distant mass communicators may not have been Homo sapiens sapiens, certainly they were human.

Humans are many things and the definition of what it means to be human is rarely, if ever, completely agreed upon within all schools of thought, however, one characteristic that defines humanness across all such definitions is the ability to communicate through the means of symbols, whether those symbols be words, pictures, or some other form of representation. As James Shreeve points out in The Neanderthal Enigma:

What was truly revolutionary about the Upper Paleolithic was not language, style or art, but the opening of the social conduits through which information of all such novel forms could flow.(Shreeve. p. 312).

Shreeve goes on to point out that cave art was probably designed to be a part of a ritual experience which was carefully planned and transmitted through the societies of the time. This magnificent leap may well have been the spark that lit the inferno that has led to today’s mass media.
The next great leap from representational pictures and art was to be able to express words or ideas clearly with written language. The invention of hieroglyphics and alphabets allowed more complex forms of information to be passed between individuals even if the individuals never actually encountered one another. Being humans, those who were able to control and use these tools used them to control and use their fellow human beings as well. Thus, this conversation which henceforth has been concerned with the idea of humans communicating meaning, moves into the more insidious realm of human beings utilizing power within human populations.
In The Media and Modernity, John B. Thompson dissects power into four distinct types. These are economic power, political power, coercive power, and symbolic power. The four are connected at multiple nodes, however, for the purpose of a less complex explanation, Thompson considers each in distinct form.
Economic power is that which controls material and financial resources in a society. Some examples of this in ascending order of influence would be farmers, merchants, bankers, and major financial institutions such as the Bretton Woods Institutions (the IMF, World Bank, etc.).
Political power is that which is concerned with authority and governance. While those with economic power are able to wield political power more easily than those without, for the purposes of this paper we will look at political power in a vacuum. The ascending order of power here might be citizen, council member, representative, senator, governor, and president.
Military power is that which uses physical and armed force. Military power falls within the realm of the coercive institutions such as prisons, police forces, sheriffs, national guard, and offensive militaries. Again, there is certainly a connection between this form of power and economic and political power. There is also a connection between all three and the final form of power Thompson discusses.
The final and one could argue, most powerful form of power is that which Thompson calls symbolic power. Symbolic power is the glue that binds the other forms of power to one another and to the people which form the basis of all power systems. Through schools, churches, and the media people are convinced that the individual power they possess should be given freely to those who wield economic, political, or coercive power in human societies. It is for this reason that the rise of mass media has also given rise to heretofore unknown levels of power among human societies.
The common factor necessary for such consolidation of control is a standardized and efficient means of production and distribution for the message that the media is to carry. In general there is a lag time between the communication and the reception of the message that mass media carries. By utilizing this factor, those utilizing mass communication means have been able to carry messages much further than the eyes of whoever might look upon a cave wall. Mass communication has managed to take this lag time and use it to transcend both time and space. This means that whatever message is being carried can reach people who are distant in geography or in time.
The next example of the mass media to carry this to a new level was the introduction of the scroll, book, or codec. By means of this often hand transcribed form, the dead were able to extend dominion over the living and the unborn came to be held in the thrall of the dying. Men were able to share their ideas with other men over the course of thousands of years and to give control in an economic, political, and coercive sense to whomever they might choose. An example of this might be the power wielded by the Vatican and the Catholic Church today being a result of the books hand-transcribed by the monks of more than a thousand years ago.
Through this process, the few are able to exert influence to overcome the resistance of the many. Through the power of the word transcribed and written some men were able to legitimize the illegitimate taking of individual power from other men. One example of this could be how the symbolic power of the media has been used to convince the poor that there is a separation between economic and military forms of power and thus keep them from rising up in arms when they realize that the two are actually one intertwined entity. Thus the symbolic form of power is used to tell the consumers of the media how to value and see the world.
By this process it is easy to see that communication on a mass scale is responsible for the building and defining of individual cultures. Culture, after all, is meaning that is shared. This shared meaning is exhibited through the mass media and thus it can be concluded that communication is not only communicating culture, but communication is in fact creating culture.
As one can imagine, things really began to kick up with the invention of the printing press and movable type. The first movable type was probably developed in Korea and China, but in 1439 Johannes Guttenberg created movable type in the Roman alphabet out of strong metal alloys. This combined with oil based ink opened the door to more people sharing the same ideas and thus sharing the same culture more than ever before. This new form of mass media spread throughout the world rapidly. One could argue that the ability to share how to move about the world rapidly in printed books, allowed the printed books themselves to travel more rapidly.
The rapid spread of information allowed the rapid consolidation of power and it is probably no coincidence that the number of people under the control of the various powers grew exponentially during this period. Through sharing culture and information, advances were made in an ever quickening pace. One of these was the creation of radio which Lewis Lapham describes in the introduction to Understanding Media by Marshal McLuhan as essential to the rise of Adolf Hitler and fascism in Nazi Germany:

…ascribing the existence of Nazi Germany to the match between the
medium of radio and Adolf Hitler’s political persona (a persona that would have failed utterly on television.) (Mcluhan. p. xvi)

Lapham goes on to explain how McLuhan has decoded why the media is always focused on the bad news.
Bad news engages the viewer’s participation in what McLuhan recognized as a collective surge of intense consciousness (a “process that makes the content of the item seem quite secondary”) and sets him up for the good news, which is much more expensively produced. A thirty-second television commercial sells for as much as $500,000 and can cost over $1 million to make; in Time magazine, a single page of color advertising costs roughly $125,000 (a sum equivalent to the annual salary paid to one of the magazine’s better writers), and McLuhan accurately accounts for the orders of priority by saying that the historians and archeologists one day will discover that the twentieth century’s commercial advertisements (like the stained-glass windows of fourteenth century cathedrals) offer the “richest and most faithful reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities.”
This, I think, raises the central point of this paper which is to get the reader to question whether the media is the result of modernity or if modernity is the result of the media. This brings us to the point that McLuhan stresses throughout his text that the media is the message. The book is empire, the radio is fascism, the television is consumption, and what then, is the internet? Since most of the texts thus far pre-date the ideas of email, instant messaging, or cellular phones, it is left to the reader to make sense of what the message of this media is.
The rise of the media of the printed word led to a standardization of language, a shared sense of commercial value, and the sense that members of geographically distant people were still members of a virtual community that transcended both time and space. This led to the rise of Protestantism, the spread of mercantilism and early capitalism, and the sense that as human beings, all individuals were imbued with certain inalienable rights. These three factors played integral parts in the birth of the United States, modern democratic process, and the growth of human rights issues. With the introduction of the electronic media such as radio and television, individuals in widely separated parts of nations or the planet itself became aware of desires that they otherwise might have never imagined. With desire came the means to subvert populations to the will of those with agendas who were able to convince the masses that they were capable of fulfilling those desires. Enter totalitarian government, deceptive media, desire manipulation and the stage is set for the major problems that contributed to shaping the twentieth century. If ever there was a double edged sword, mass media would seem to be it.
Thompson breaks communication into three categories: face to face, mediated, and quasi-mediated. Face to face is between two people who are both present in the same time and space. Mediated is between individuals and/or groups and is separated by time and space, thus a media is needed such as letter writing or two way radio. Quasi-mediated interaction is communication that is directed one way rather than both ways. This would be the case of broadcast media and it is not subject to either time or space. The indication that it is two way communication is illusory in nature. By employing quasi-mediated communication to create culture and shape the thoughts of citizens, those in control of the mass media offer the illusion that it is actually a two way communication. This can be done through news tip hotlines, eyewitness accounts, and ‘independent’ oversight by regulating bodies that are supposed to be working in the public interest. One might suppose that even those working in the media are fooled by this ploy.
Today, things are more complicated. With the rise of cell phones, internet, and instant messaging; a face to face communication that is not dependent upon time and space has emerged. An eyewitness is not dependent upon the news reporter to tell what really happens in any situation. Take for example a bus accident. While the news media has been called and is enroute to the accident, a bystander has taken a video of the scene with his cell phone. He posts it to his blog using a cell phone/internet program such as flickr. Next he text messages/IMs his contacts using his cell phone and a cell/web interface such as twitter. Those who receive his text can look at the video and text him back with questions. By the time that the news media arrives, it is conceivable that huge numbers of human beings have been notified, seen the accident, and even been able to ask questions of the bystander. All of this is irregardless of time and space. This change from quasi-mediated to face to face communication of a different sort is most likely the next stage of human culture. We are in the beginning stages of it.
Because of the widespread dissemination of cellphones and the internet, it is easy to forget that both technologies are extremely young. As such, it is not likely that we, living in this society are able to focus the lens of history with any sort of clarity upon what effect these technologies are having or will have upon us in the future. It is easy to think that these are simply the latest things and as such are not terribly important, but we are not talking about fads such as hula hoops or video games. We are talking about communication. We are not just talking about communication, we are talking about mass communication. We are not just talking about mass communication, we are talking about mass power to shape the future of human culture. As shown earlier, communication really is culture and since we are looking at new forms of communication, there can be no doubt that we are looking at new forms of utilizing power, new forms of controlling individuals, and new forms of shaping the human culture to come.

assignments big screen, little screen, ipod

Silver Linings and the Silver Screen

Just when I start to feel a little burnt out, I get a day like today where my job brings me into contact with cool, interesting people that regardless of whether there is any tipping involved, are just a pleasure to be around.
First of all, this morning was a great rainforest hike with a bunch of really fun people. Among them was the fun newlyweds from Bellingham who got married last week and had a 70’s theme wedding complete with brown tuxedos and real cheesy mustaches for the groom and the groomsmen. These guys had more fun taking pictures and making sure that there was something fun in each pic than any other people I’ve ever had on tour.
Then this afternoon, there was this great family of nine from Colorado. 2 sisters, their husbands, their kids, and the sisters mom. Awesome group of people, interested and interesting. Asked me lots of questions, challenged me to explain things to them from why Hawaii no longer has a monarchy to why we fill beautiful valleys with our garbage.
So these folks were the silver lining on the cloud of the not so great tourists.
As to the silver screen, yesterday my afternoon tour got cancelled so I went to check out whatever movie was playing next. It was Step Brothers. The theatre was filled with single military guys that all seemed to be from the South. The first few minutes were painful enough that I got up and went to the next movie that was starting. Mamma Mia. I’m not opposed to musicals or to chick flicks, but this was too much of both without any sort of redeeming quality to it. Twenty minutes (painful minutes) later, I figured I would try for the charm, third try. I thought this one would hit. X Files movie…I used to love that show, but you know what…it was awful too. I sat through the whole thing and found it disjointed, badly written, not shot really well, and in a word…bad. Bummer.
the one silver lining seemed to be a slim hope at best. Coming soon on the previews…and the only preview that looked good to me…is a Kevin Costner (I know!) film called Swing Vote. It looks like it might actually be really good. In any event, I would probably stay away from the cineplex at the moment unless you need to see Batman.

assignments Crime and Punishment Ink Dribblers war is waste

Moby Dick, Citizens Arrest, Barack Obama, worm math, and other things that draw hits from Google.

I’ve been reading Moby Dick lately. Started it a few days ago and haven’t been able to put it down. If my high school English teacher is reading this, I admit it, I read the cliff notes in 12th grade. On top of that, I’m glad because this book by Herman Melville is worthy of the title classic and I am experiencing it for the first time. I’m laughing to myself about the new search results that will bring people here. Now in addition to cross dressing ( a story about cross dressers in China), buttplug (The Bushplug), and penis (West Africans scared of having their penis stolen by magic), now I can add Dick to the terms that draw people here. Moby Dick is amazing. I’m laughing while I read it as Ishmael and his new head hunter friend cuddle and chat while sharing a bed, learn from each other about friendship, and meet several different types of religious zealots that all view life differently. I’m glad I’m reading it now, it would have been wasted on me in high school and I probably would have never read it again. I’m only about 100 pages in and the story is still just beginning, they’ve only just gotten berths on the ship and it is still in port. More on this later.
In the real world where truth is stranger than fiction (sometimes anyway), a group of Iowa citizens attempted to citizens arrest Karl Rove. That is so fucking cool.

Des Moines police arrested four people who tried to make a citizen’s arrest of Karl Rove on grounds of “treason, sedition and subversive activities leading to the deaths of 300,000 Iraqi civilians and 4,000 U.S. Military personnel,” according to AP.

And finally, I’m hoping that if I mention Obama enough, that he might enter my search engine results but so far he is way dwon below buttplug, sex with dog, penis, cross dresser, and other choice terms. I don’t know the calculus of worm demographics but worms apparently do understand calculus.

Worms calculate how much the strength of different tastes is changing – equivalent to the process of taking a derivative in calculus – to figure out if they are on their way toward food or should change direction and look elsewhere, says University of Oregon biologist Shawn Lockery, who thinks humans and other animals do the same thing.

Who knew that my worm bin was so smart?
Also, I am sad to report that this war on our psyche is indeed having a toll. Many veterans that never take a bullet are still being hit fatally by these wars we wage. Over 22,000 veterans called the suicide hotline set up for vets in the first year it was operating. This is probably about 10% of those who had thoughts of suicide. War has casualties that never get counted. Male veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide than men who are not veterans. The V.A. says that at least 6500 vets commit suicide each year. Add those to the U.S. casualty list and the number of dead goes up significantly.

assignments cash and poverty

Weak dollars, selling your life, and failing grades

For those who want to know what the American economy is looking like here is a quick summary:

The dollar has slipped 7.7 percent against the euro and 5.9 percent versus the yen in 2008 as the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to stave off a U.S. recession. Oil prices have doubled in the past 12 months, while gold is up 44 percent.

Jim Rodgers, a personal hero of mine who predicted Gold would reach $1000 and Oil would top $100 back in 2006 says to stay away from the dollar futures. Sounds like good advice to me. I just wish my boss would pay me in pesos or euros.
Another update, the guy who was selling his whole life (car, job, friends etc) got $399,000 for it (Austrailian so $379k u.s). Ian Usher decided to keep nothing but his passport and the clothes on his back. Maybe I should get rid of my stuff that way…of course without a house or car…it would hurt to get $17. 25 cents for everything…lol.
Seriously, think about how much you are selling your own life for. How much is an hour of your life worth? What if you knew you would die tomorrow? Or next week? Or next year? Does the price change? Why? Recently I made a list of what I would do the next day if I knew it was my last. Turns out it was just about exactly what I do every day. Wake up, excercise, eat something delicious, go to work (this surprised me too, but I guess I enjoy my job), hope that I could make the day great for whoever my guests happened to be, play guitar, water my plants and garden, pick a mango and eat it, drink a nice glass of wine or tasty beer (or two even), hope to meet the girl of my dreams but not waste any time if I didn’t, do a little reading, a bit of meditation, and maybe take a long walk before bed. Pretty simple…I was surprised to find that there were no “go skydiving” or “take a big trip to as far as I could go” or other such things…give it a try and seriously think about how much your time is worth…
In Britain a student got two points out of 27 on an exam for writing “Fuck Off” on the page and nothing else. The teacher explained that it expressed meaning and was spelled correctly. It was still a failing grade however.

assignments other worlds Poor Vago we know nothing

Trip Report: Admitting the fear- Salvia and the Rabbit Hole

Last night, I smoked a huge hit of Salvia and my couch melted around me and I fell backwards as the sounds of Big Brother and the Holding Company created this ripple like effect on the edge of my reality. I felt the rabbit hole open up and (oddly I just noticed that Janice Joplin is on the radio right now) I found myself desperately clinging to the edges of the ripple to keep myself from falling completely into it. And then I realized that it was exactly where I wanted to go and I tried to let go and become immersed in the altered reality that was closing around me, but the ripples were fading by then and it was too late to jump in completely. The window that Salvia opens is brief by nature and it then closed. It was funny how I didn’t even recognize the irrationality of my fear or that I was afraid at all but that once I did see it and face it it disappeared. I can only hope that the next time the rabbit hole opens I am brave enough to dive in head first and see what I will find.