Archive for October, 2013

Questioning Everyday Life

Posted: October 31, 2013 in CPD

When thinking about media and culture, I can see why it would make sense to understand how people are in their everyday life. A year ago I would have thought that was easy but then I read ‘Questioning Everyday Life’ by Ben Highmore and once again I’m questioning stuff I didn’t think I needed to! Surely everyday life is about me and what I do on a day by day basis, end of story. How hard can it be? If anyone wants to study everyday life they just need to follow someone around for a few days making notes. If this happens to be someone in the media (advertising, game design, film making) then that should be simple. You want an aftershave to suit a man for ‘everyday’ then watch him in his everyday routines. If you want to make a film about the everyday family life of people in Bristol then follow a family around for a week with a camera and sound engineer. But cultural studies and media is never that simple. Having read Ben Highmore’s account of everyday life, I’m now beginning to wonder if there is such a thing and as usual, I’m not even sure I am in charge of my everyday life anymore!
Henri Lefebvre in his book Critique of Everyday Life [Lefebvre: 1930] said that everyday life is defined as ‘what is left over’ when you take everything else a way. I guess he means class, gender and all the other things that shape who we are. But it is my class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and cultural capital that affect my everyday life and to take those things away might mean I am not being myself in everyday life! Then I’ve got Marx and Freud saying that everyday life is not my own anyway – that I am influenced by people with power who tell me what to do because they can and that I am just a big bundle of unspent desires that make ‘everyday’ living a bit of a battle.

Ben Highmore suggests that in order to understand it we have to look at the micro (what is there and what you see that makes it everyday) as well as the background stuff (the culture and society where the everyday life takes place). That way, we should be able to get closer to what really is everyday. By looking at what everyday isn’t, we should be able to define what it is. Well good luck with that one – I’m off down the pub to study people doing ‘everyday’ things!


I think I am part of the problem and the solution so maybe I have no choice. We live in a society that is not equal – perhaps this is one of the most important things I have learnt on the course so far. But what I am also beginning to realise is the role media plays in this inequality. I do think my thoughts and beliefs are limited to the fact that I am a man – I can support and agree with feminism and I can show this but I really don’t think I can truly understand it. How can I? I can learn about gender and identity and the four waves of feminism but I can’t really experience the difficulties women face on a day to day basis. As a man I still get confused though! Having just read Coy and Garner (2010) ‘Glamour Modelling and the marketing of self-sexualisation’ I realise that I am not alone in thinking that there is a mixed message here. As Cathy Rosario writes:
“While dividing feminism into four waves provides a degree of clarity, the reality is that when you have a movement that makes a claim to speak for half the human population, cramming it into a nutshell is always going to be difficult and offer only a partial view.” ‘Waving not Drowning: the Four Waves of Feminism, (2012).


Thinking about it, I’m not sure I am the problem – perhaps the biggest problem feminists face is other women. Katie Price states she is a feminist – now there’s a mixed message if ever I head one. All I can do is continue to believe that men and women are equal and that their differences should be celebrated. As a man though, it is easy to fall into the trap of ‘coming to the aid of the feminists’

It is the idea that women need men’s’ help to fight their battle against other men (and dare I say, against other women) that probably concerns me the most. So in answer to the question that I started with – ‘Can a man write about feminism?’ the answer is yes! But can a man be a feminist I think I have to say no. I can support the cause and be part of the movement but for a man to be a feminist almost takes their fight away from them. I am part of this unequal society and I am part of the media culture. I have to support feminism because when I think about it – I might need the feminists help one day when the tables are turned and I find myself fighting the battle of masculism

essex-boy-web-spt-345x548Masculinity and moisturiser do mix!

I wasn’t sure in the blog about feminism that I had the knowledge or the right to talk about it.  I felt that I was part of the problem as well as the solution. So when I knew I had to write a blog about masculinity I thought I would be safe and a year ago I think I would have been. But as always, this course gets you thinking in different ways about things you just didn’t think about! You see I thought masculinity was just about being a man and that I decided the type of man I wanted to be but now nothing is that simple. Having read Hall and Geiben’s article ‘The Commercialisation of masculinities:from the new man to the new lad’ [Article from Formations of Modernity:1992] I realise that not only is it really difficult to define what masculinity is but that surprise, surprise, I’m not sure I’m in charge of it! Take male beauty products as an example! When my dad was my age, there were no ‘male skincare products’ and recently when he saw my Nivea shaving balm, I got the ‘What do you need that for?’ look. I know that I am different to my dad in that respect. But just because I look after myself doesn’t mean I’m not masculine. (I’m taking my definition of masculine from the Oxford Dictionary: adjective having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men: he is outstandingly handsome and robust, very masculine) [Oxford]

But my worry here is this – am I caring about my appearance because the media tell me to? Have I watched too many adverts or read too many men’s magazines. Perhaps I have become the ‘new man as narcissist’ as Hall puts it. Perhaps men are falling into the same trap as women do. I believe that I can be like the bloke on the front cover of Esquire just like women believe they can look like Angelina Jolie in two weeks because the magazine says so. I guess I am a new man and I am happy with my masculinity even though the definition of what that actually is, keeps changing. But surely I’m not that dense. Can I really be that influenced by adverts in men’s magazines? It really could be the case that media and big business is responding to ‘the new man’ rather than the other way round. The problem is, men’s beauty products is worth $2.6B in the USA and £420M in Europe [2012 – Premium Beauty News –] so surely the industry is going to keep on advertising and then it’s going to be difficult to decide who is leading who. I would like to think that the media will always respond to the changing needs of men but this course is teaching me that the media is a very powerful thing and nothing should be taken for granted!

Chav Babes 2006 Calender Sunday MercuryOk so new week on the Media Culture and Practice course and once again I have so many questions! I’ve just been reading an article called “Chav Mum Chav Scum” by Imogen Tyler (2008)

In this article she uses a word to describe a new social class, a class of poor white working-class known as ‘chavs’. This is not a new word or a new phenomenon but its effects are far reaching and long standing.

The first question I have is this – who next? Which group of society will be vilified and ridiculed and hated. As Imogen Taylor suggests, there has always been an underclass but what seems to be happening now is that technology is supporting it in a way like never before.

Throughout history there have been ‘chavs’ – and underclass in society, people at the bottom of the social ladder, with no way to escape their poverty. But what is different now is the role of the media in making this situation a whole lot worse! Through the mass media, the chav has become a figure to be ridiculed and hated. The biggest chav of all (Vicky Pollard from Little Britain) has completely taken over this idea. She is a media creation to laugh at and despise. Through Figurative methodology, the chav figure has become (as Imogen Taylor explains) distorted and caricatured.

Over time, society zooms in on a group of people (the chavs) and repeats them over lots of different media – TV, Newspapers, Film, Documentaries, Music etc. Over time this figure becomes embedded in the culture. Then lots of negativity surrounds this group and a new lower social class is born. (which makes the white upper/ middle classes very happy because they have someone else to sneer at perhaps?) Without the media, the chav would just be white poor but now they have a label and have become a figure, they develop qualities that people love to hate.

So, am I safe from this? Am I next? Has it already started? The rise of ‘lad culture’ and the negative media surrounding it is not difficult to find – National Union of Students recent research on ‘laddism’ and a culture of harassment or the Daily Mail headline from 2010 –“ Lads’ mags and a toxic culture that treats all women like meat.” (Jan Moir May 2010)

So what’s next? A comedy TV programme? No wait, already done with ‘The Inbetweeners’. As a ‘lad’ of 19, can I escape from this label? There must be an awful lot of poor, white working class people who are thinking the same thing. They are not ‘chavs’ but they are going to be tarred with the same brush. As an unregulated body (although this may change with the Leveson Report) the mass media can make or break a social class with a picture or a headline. At what point will society fight back?

Pierre BourdieuI found out this week I have cultural capital. Didn’t know I had it and now I know, I find myself feeling highly relieved!

The idea of Cultural Capital was first realised by Bourdieu, a French sociologist, who used the term cultural capital as a way of explaining the advantage that middle class children gain from having middle class parents. And because ‘working class’ children do not acquire the same cultural capital, they are basically at a disadvantage in the education system and as a result, the society and culture in which they live.

As I read this article, it was difficult not to feel quite thankful that I have had the kind of upbringing that gave me opportunities. I had music lessons, I went to pottery classes (my mum still has some of the deformed items in the downstairs loo) and I endured listening to the Archers for most of my young years. What I didn’t realise was that these experiences were ‘lining my cultural pocket’ with advantages that only now I have come to understand. Today we watched Grayson Perry’s social/art study of the middle classes – In the Best Possible Taste. (Channel 4 June 2012). It was spookily accurate and reminded me of my mum with her beloved Le Creuset set (I’ve had this for 20 years) and her NCT (we still get together every year and I’m nearly 20)!

Yet I am left with an uneasy feeling – how condescending to think that working class children don’t also experience some of this cultural wealth, or am I just naïve, assuming that everyone has the same opportunities. Bourdieu argues, middle class cultural capital is not all about the money, it’s about the subconscious foundations that are laid down by families and I guess your family either has it or they don’t! In his other book Distinction (1970) he even argues that the ‘taste’ I have is not my ability to choose but comes from my class and my upbringing. Now I’m really starting to question things. On this course so far, I’ve realised that not only do I not own my own image (it is the persona I want to others to see and probably based on media pressures and subliminal messages), I am ruled by my iphone (according to Sherry Turkle) and now the very things I choose and the decisions I make are based on my parent’s class structure and my place in it! A question I am starting to ask myself is – do I own any of me? And do I have my cultural capital forever or do I have to start earning my own? I’m thinking my cultural capital might become different from my parents’ cultural capital and how do I ensure I give my cultural capital to my children?

As Einstein once said:

To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.

Well I’m certainly raising a lot of questions at the moment!

Alone Together?

Posted: October 18, 2013 in Experience & Identity
maxresdefaultAccording to Sherry Turkle, (TED Talk February 2012) I should have more “Real Time” conversations, you know, the one on one, face to face chats! After watching her short TED video I find myself agreeing with what she is saying but at the same time I completely disagree.

Maybe Sherry Turkle is just hiding away from the fact or in denial that society is constantly changing and to be quite frank there isn’t anything we can do about it. Everything she has mentioned in this video I do on a daily basis! This doesn’t mean I’m always happy to do be doing it but at the same time I’m so used to doing it that I don’t even know I’m doing it! It has become innate, a natural and integral part of my communication. I know it shouldn’t necessarily be this way and I agree that face to face communication with all the body language and facial clues, is a much more natural way of talking. But the world is changing and we have to change with it. She talks about being ‘alone together’ but at the same time I believe we are connected together for the better. If I take a stand and refuse to communicate through texts then I am as good as mute. All of my friends (and even my parents) text to communicate and I would feel I was missing out on the technology that allows us the freedom of communication without the ‘real contact’.

Then again… she has a point. My texts should be reflecting me, not reconstructing me. I change, adapt and sometimes never send texts I write. I do have a ‘text persona’ that is different to the real me and that is something that I wasn’t really aware of before. I think from now on I will try to make my texts more reflective of the real me rather than the persona I want to convey. That will be an interesting experiment!

Over the next few months, I think I’m going to have to think about technology and media in a way that I have never thought of it before. But at the same time Technology is a part of our life and we are adapting to it and around it every day. Maybe we are alone together but if I can talk to whoever I want, when I want and share memories with people on the other side of the world, then maybe being alone together is not such a bad thing! We need people like Sherry Turkle to allow us time to stop, think and re-evaluate. Technology is an on-going rush and we would do well to take the time to make sure we are controlling technology rather than technology controlling us.

PokerShe would command an audience on a Sunday night! Smoking her clay pipe and sitting at an old farm table, Great Great Granny McMannus would be the centre of the local community for at least 3 hours. There she would play ‘old style’ poker, usually against the local farmers who ‘should know better’. Playing both straight and stud poker, she rarely lost and (according to my Grandfather) knew when to hold them and knew when to fold them.

This tradition of card playing on a Sunday night was certainly part of my childhood. Although we rarely played for money (and then only pennies), Newmarket, 21 and poker were games we played as a whole family and particularly when the Irish side of the family visited.

What I learnt about those times was priceless. The sense of family tradition was clear and even as a boy, I felt so proud to be part of it. Looking back, it wasn’t really about the cards – it was about the family being together. The TV was long forgotten, the table was cleared and I would sit with my grandfather as he had sat with his grandmother and the game would continue.

Of course now you don’t need anything but a computer and you can be completely on your own playing with strangers from every continent! I’m not sure my Great Great Grandmother would have approved! Remote Gambling is defined as “Gambling in which persons participate by the use of remote communication”. This would be using the internet, the telephone, radio, television of any other device used for communication. (Wikipedia – (46)

In terms of revenue, there has been a phenomenal increase in online poker playing , with casino betting taking £347.87 million between 2010-2011. (Wikipedia – (48) but linked to this there has also been an increase in ‘problem gambling’ and money laundering through online casino sites.

This is part of the poker game that I dislike the most. Gone is the community spirit, gone is the competitor that you can look in the eye and try to read their body language. Gone are the discussions and debates throughout the evening, the comradely and community spirit that my Great Great Grandmother thought so important.

The Conversation

Posted: October 8, 2013 in CPD

In this video we show an unrealistic conversation by asking questions to different parts of the face. This is something that would never happen in a day to day conversation, therefore is a perfect example of ignoring realism

What can you do that I can’t?

Posted: October 3, 2013 in CPD

What can you do that I can't?

Why do people assume girls can’t do the same thing as boys?

What makes you so much better?

Posted: October 3, 2013 in CPD

What makes you so much better?

It doesn’t make a difference what race or gender you are. Everyone is equal and capable of doing things that people presume are Male dominated jobs/sports/hobbies