Initial Essay Preparation (305mc)

One of the first modules that we have been introduced to for the third year studying Media Production is 305mc: Analysing Media and Communication. It mainly focuses on how particular media, communication and cultural forms impact and quite often shape issues and events in the world today. The media presence in the world today is by far the greatest there has ever been and this alters life in so many ways.

The overarching question posed to us is as follows:

“Choose a current issue/debate/controversy and analyse how it is informed and determined by power, spectacle and memory within contemporary mediated culture”

There are a thousands ways you could interpret this question. The more important aspect is selecting an issue that is present today and something that has been wholly or partially driven by contemporary media practises. The three sections to focus on are Power, Spectacle and Memory. Each individually and collectively represent the power of media and how it is used to showcase a topical issue in a certain way or determine the outcome to the audience. The length of the essay is 3,000 words w/10% that examines these 3 areas and how they have been incorporated in the media use over a certain issue in the world today. I will look to reference theorists who have explored these three subject areas, understanding the importance they have on events and issues that pertain under a mediated culture.

I spent some time considering a number of ideas and events that were present in the media world today. Along with some of my peers we came up with this list after a short brainstorming session.

  • Emma Watson – Feminism
  • Presidential Campaign Trump vs. Hilary
  • Global Warming, Leonardo DiCaprio documentary
  • ISIS – use of media to enforce power and create fear around the world.
  • Refugee Crisis around the world
  • 9/11 – George Bush
  • Turkish Coup
  • Mass Shootings/America. Gun Crime
  • Jimmy Saville/Cliff Richard reports of sexual abuse.
  • Gary Barlow – Tax evasion
  • Bill Cosby – Use of power to hide criminal acts. False portrayal.
  • Bernie – Jack Black. Use of film to soften the seriousness of an otherwise immoral act.

Through careful consideration, I feel that I would be most interested in pursuing research into The Islamic State, also know as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The whole world has at some point seen or heard about the acts of terror committed by the group and others have directly experienced them.

Relating ISIS to the question posed for this module. I would look to explore how the group has used the media to gain power and increase their global presence as a terror threat. How the use of video and images have made their intentions appear as a spectacle, something to be witnessed on a grand scale. Their careful planning with the full understanding of how their acts would be documented. Over the past few years, ISIS have been behind some of the more gruesome acts of terror that the world has seen. Each and every time when they have sent messages through to other nations or threats of further violence, its been recorded either through video or audio recordings. Messages have been posted online, through social media and similar content sharing sites. The media companies and broadcasters around the world have spectated on this content, declaring to their own countries the threat ISIS poses.

The group create this media with the full intention of getting it seen around the world and ensuring that it is shared throughout as much as possible. By creating a global online presence, that can reach more people than ever, ISIS can increase their power and induce fear in the people that consume the media. Many may not be directly affected but with the number of incidents occurring in countries throughout Europe, people are in fear that something could happen close to them. On Bastille Day in Nice, a man drove a truck through a large crowd of people, killing at least 84 people and injuring countless others. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack, whether this is accurate is still debatable. The group has taken responsibility for the actions of singular individuals in the past. “An Islamic State-run media outlet says the man who drove his truck into a crowd in the French coastal city of Nice is a “soldier” of the group. Also it was stated that the attack was “carried out the operation in response to calls to target the citizens of coalition countries fighting the Islamic State.” (Henderson, B. & Sabur, R. 2016). ISIS have made such an impact globally that many of these attacks are not always 100% carried out by members of the group and yet people associate their accountability almost instantly.

Throughout my essay I will look at examples of how ISIS have used the media to influence their power and status. I will identify times when such events can be considered a spectacle, where society stops and observes. The third aspect to focus on is memory that appears more difficult at first in relating to my chosen topic. Through the initial research I have done, the idea looks at prosthetic memories; the idea that we have memories for something that we haven’t actually experienced ourselves. The development of media over the years has given us the ability to share content relating to specific events. People are able to watch videos, hear stories, interact with those affected directly by the event. It almost gets to a point where people feel that they have experienced the event themselves through what they have watched, read, spoke about. “the most important element of which was the invention of electronic means of recording and transmitting information, which not only change the way we remember, but provide new ways of conceptualizing memory.” (Olick, J.K. & Robbins, J. 1998, p.115) Through looking at a piece on Social Memory Studies, it mentions how the expansion of media and the ways that we can share information has altered how we remember things. Quite often now, memories are associated with pictures or videos. We recall memories from observing the media whereas without it we may forget about it altogether. A lot of people first heard about ISIS through the media, through images and video shown on the news. This goes for terror attacks as well. People feel that they have experienced the attacks, experienced the fear through empathising with the direct victims and allowing their own fear to act against them. Recalling memories of when they first saw the media or heard of the attack comes into play as well. The amount of coverage on events like this is unprecedented now. A mass of material can be accessed that gives any observer multiple angles on a situation. This is how the media has truly altered perspective.

Over the coming weeks I will spend time further researching into the three aspects, focusing more on Power and Spectacle. I believe exploring this topic will open my eyes to how the media can be a vital tool, if not the most important in this day and change.

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